What just happened?
For the past eight months, Christians around the world have been praying for the release of Leah Sharibu, a 15-year-old schoolgirl from Nigeria.
Last week, a group of Islamic terrorists executed Hauwa Leman, a 24-year-old aid worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and vowed to make Sharibu a “slave for life.” Days before the execution, a 35-second audio clip of Sharibu was released in which the girl pleads for her life:
“I am Leah Sharibu, the girl that was abducted in GGSS Dapchi. I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation. I also plead to the members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother, and relatives. Kindly help me out of my predicament. I am begging you to treat me with compassion, I am calling on the government, particularly the president, to pity me and get me out of this serious situation. Thank you.”
Who is Leah Sharibu?
Dressed as Nigerian soldiers and driving machine-gun mounted trucks, Boko Haram terrorists attacked the city of Dapchi on February 19 and abducted 110 girls from the Government Girls Science and Technical School. Sharibu was the only Christian in the group of abducted girls.
A month later, 104 girls were released (five girls were reportedly killed on the first day of the attack). Sharibu reportedly was also offered her freedom on the condition that she convert to Islam. But according to her fellow captives, she refused to renounce her faith.
“We begged her to just recite the Islamic declaration and put the hijab on and get into the vehicle, but she said it was not her faith, so why should she say it was?” Sharibu’s friends told her mother. “If they want to kill her, they can go ahead, but she won’t say she is a Muslim.”
Earlier this year Sharibu and two other girls managed to escape their captors. According to The Guardian, the three hungry and exhausted girls walked for three days before approaching a family of the nomadic Fulani people. They asked for help getting home to Dapchi but were instead taken straight back to their kidnappers.
Hasn’t a similar kidnapping happened before?
Yes. In 2014, 300 Christian girls aged 12 to 15 were sleeping in dormitories at an all-girls school in northeast Nigeria when they were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Some of the kidnapped girls were been forced into “marriage” with their abductors and sold for a nominal bride price of $12. The kidnappings were the focus of the “Bring Back Our Girls” social media campaign that garnered significant attention in 2014.
Why does Boku Haram kidnap children?
Like their Islamic State allies in the Middle East, Boko Haram has a theological justification for rape and sex slavery.
Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, released a video in 2014 explaining why they kidnap schoolgirls.
“I abducted the girls at a Western education school,” Shekau said in the video. “And you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. . . . I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell; he commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”
“It is Allah that instructed us,” he added. “Until we soak the ground of Nigeria with Christian blood and so-called Muslims contradicting Islam. After we have killed, killed, killed, and get fatigue and wondering what to do with their corpses—smelling of [Barack] Obama, [George] Bush, and [Nigerian president Goodluck] Jonathan—will open prison and be imprison the rest. Infidels have no value.”
Who is Boko Haram?
Boko Haram is the Hausa language nickname for Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad). The nickname, which translates to “Western education is sinful,” was given because of the group’s initial focus on opposing Western education in African countries.
Founded in 2002, the terrorist group comprises radical Islamists who oppose both Westerners and also “apostate” Muslims. Based in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger, the organization seeks to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled by Shariah law, putting a stop to what it deems “Westernization.” Its followers are said to be influenced by the Quranic phrase that says:,“Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors.
Despite the group’s nickname, Boko Haram’s agenda is much broader than just education. The group promotes a version of radical Islam that makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers, or receiving a non-Muslim education.
(For more on this group, see: 9 Things You Should Know About Boko Haram)
What happens now?
In the recently released video showing the execution of Hauwa, Boko Haram say they will “keep [Leah and Alice] as slaves” since they are not allowed to kill “kafir,” or people who are not apostates. (Alice Loksha, a nurse who worked in a center supported by UNICEF, is also being held captive by the militants.)
“This means that they are likely going to keep them permanently,” says Olivia Miller, the coordinator of International Christian Concern. “They are saying that they will no longer accept any ransom or rewards for them, but will likely use them for work, force them to convert to Islam, and probably rape and beat them.”
“Eventually, they will probably sell them to a rich Muslim man, who will force them to marry and own them. These are all things that Boko Haram is well known for doing to young women. My only hope is that they are just using this to try and get more money from the government. This would mean that there is still a chance that they can be saved.”