Nigerian Teen Leah Remains “fragile and abandoned” amid Rescue Promises: Catholic Charity

The parents of Leah Sharibu, a Nigerian teenager who was kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram in Northeastern Nigeria, are suffering, knowing that their daughter remains “fragile and abandoned” in captivity, Catholic Pontifical and charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), has said.

In a Monday, February 21 report, ACN Portugal says that little is known about the health of Leah who the Nigerian government has promised to rescue.

“It is hard to imagine the suffering that Leah Sharibu’s parents have been going through during these long days of captivity, knowing her fragile and abandoned in the midst of one of the most fearsome terrorist groups today,” ACN Portugal says.

“There is not much data about her health condition and whereabouts,” the charity Foundation reports about the girl who was kidnapped from her school in Dapchi, and adds, “The most recent information that the ACN Foundation obtained from Gideon Para-Mallan (a Pastor in Nigeria), very close to the young Christian’s family, indicates that she is alive.”

Pastor Gideon, who ACN Portugal says meets with Leah’s family “with frequency”, said that the teenager’s parents remain “steadfast and full of faith that one day they will see their daughter” in freedom. 


“Their state of mind has not yet been broken, but they are in pain,” the Nigerian Pastor told ACN Portugal, making reference to Leah’s parents.

ACN Portugal reports that kidnapped four years ago, young Leah is “a symbol of the persecution of Christians by the terrorist group Boko Haram.”

Leah Sharibu was only 14 years old when she was taken by armed men, belonging to the terrorist group Boko Haram, from her school in Dapchi, in Northeastern Nigeria.

In that attack, in February 2018, the terrorists took 110 girls with them. However, about a month later, all the schoolgirls were released except for Leah, who, being the only Christian in the group, refused to convert to Islam as the terrorists demanded. She has remained in captivity ever since.

ACN Portugal reports that Leah’s parents, Nathan and Rebecca Sharibu, have since issued an appeal, released in recent days by the Nigerian press, in which they ask the country’s leaders to “expedite the release” of their daughter.

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Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff, General Lucky Irabor, reportedly gave assurance that efforts were underway to secure the release of Leah and others held captive by armed non-state actors. General Irabor reportedly assured Leah’s parents in a program on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) January 11, that the young woman would be rescued.

During the Good Morning Nigeria interview on NTA, General Irabor also reportedly said he was “aware of plans and of course, processes that are in place to ensure that not just Leah Sharibu but every other person held captive is released.”

An official of the Leah Foundation, an institution created in the meantime to support Leah’s release, told ACN that there were unconfirmed rumors that the teenager has given birth to at least one child and that she was “forced to marry a Boko Haram leader.”

The official explained that “the last verified information that she is still alive goes back to the beginning of the year 2020.”

The charity foundation reports having condemned Leah's kidnapping, saying, “The ACN Foundation has from the first hour denounced this case to the world.”


The Catholic foundation reports that the story of Leah Sharibu has particularly been an example of “Martyrs and Heroes for Love”, people who “took their fidelity to God and the Church to the extreme”. 

Meanwhile, leading Parliamentarians will hear first-hand accounts from women from religious minorities who have suffered persecution and abuse because of their faith at an online event on International Women’s Day marked on March 8. 

Organized by ACN and Open Doors UK on the theme, “The Forgotten Women: Persecuted Women and Girls from Religious Minorities”, the event is expected to push for the argument that religious freedom violations, including sexual violence against women, are not adequately recognized by governments around the world.

In a February 18 report by ACN United Kingdom, the leadership of the Catholic charity foundation reported that the event is an opportunity “to raise the profile of these appalling cases of suffering, be it young Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan kidnapped and raped or Uighur Muslim women forced to have abortions.”

“We ask, what is the UN doing to help these women? What portion of UK aid is going to help persecuted Christian women in Pakistan? In Nigeria? Do policymakers really recognize the scale of the problem?” Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of ACN (UK), says in the report.

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Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, said, “The women whose stories we are sharing represent hundreds of thousands more women, who, because of their faith and gender, are unlikely to have their stories heard.”

The CEO of Open Doors UK adds, “Many organizations advocate on the issue of gender-based violence and conflict. However, the fact that religious faith so often adds to their vulnerability is rarely mentioned...It is vital that this additional vulnerability of religion is included in needs assessment and program design.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.