Last Friday, May 14, was the 18th birthday of Nigerian Christian teenager Leah Sharibu.
If you have heard Leah’s story, you know that it’s one of a modern Christian martyr. It’s a story of a girl brave and faithful beyond her years. It’s the kind of story that makes you think to yourself, “What would I do if I were in Leah’s place?
But it is also a story of modern day slavery. Leah is just one of thousands of black Africans — mostly Christian — who have been enslaved by jihadi terrorists and trafficked in such countries as Libya, Mauritania, Algeria, and Sudan, as well as Nigeria.
On the morning of February 19, 2018, when Leah was 14 years old, she was abducted. Boko Haram jihadists took her and 109 of her classmates from their school in northeast Nigeria. Five of the girls died while being transported. A month later 104 girls came home. But Leah remained. She refused to deny her Lord, renounce her Christian faith, and convert to Islam. So she remains enslaved by Boko Haram today.
You can read more about Leah and her family at the LEAH Foundation website.
You can also watch the virtual birthday celebrations of Leah as a “Hero of Faith” that were produced by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in the UK. The CSW UK website includes a 24 hour celebration, consisting of events from the United Kingdom, Nigeria, the United States, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
Don’t miss the beautiful song “Heroes of Faith” dedicated to Leah, written by iconic Nigerian gospel singer Panam Percy Paul. An international group of musicians perform the song, including legendary Christian musicians like Lou Fellingham (Phatfish), Noel Robinson (Songs of Praise), and Steph MacLeod (Celtic Worship). The song is included in all five videos. Please share these videos.
Previously I wrote about a new initiative spearheaded by Nigerians in American and in Nigeria called Free Nigerian Slaves. It is modeled after the successful campaign to expose the enslavement of Christians and other black Africans from Southern Sudan by Arab Islamist militias in the 1990’s that helped pave the way for the creation of the nation of South Sudan. While genocide, which is indeed taking place in Nigeria as it was taking place in Sudan, is sometimes too big or too vague to grab us emotionally. . . slavery is a far fresher wound. The memories of slavery combined with the horrors of modern-day trafficking are the fuel for an abolitionist movement that will reveal the depth of depravity whose end is genocide.
The first campaign of Free Nigerian Slaves was to send an open, public letter to U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar who is now Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Human Rights. The letter, signed by nine Nigerian faith and human rights leaders (including our own Anglican Archdeacon the Very Reverend Samuel Orimogunje and Mrs. Deborah Orimogunje), challenges Omar to speak out against slavery in Africa. The signers specifically ask Omar to do the following:
In addition to the open letter, which was published in the local paper as well as being released nationwide to the press, the campaign includes a billboard with a plea to Omar concerning Leah Sharibu. The billboard overlooks a downtown intersection near Target Field in Minneapolis. And in April a group of advocates for Free Nigerian Slaves held a rally near Omar’s district office.
We hope and pray that Congresswoman Omar will show that she believes that African lives matter by responding to our letter and helping to show the truth about the horrific situation in Nigeria. But even more, we hope and pray that this campaign and all of the Free Nigerian Slaves initiative will spur us all to speak out and act for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.
Please sign the petition at Free Nigerian Slaves. Share that petition and the videos about Leah Sharibu on your social media. #FreeNigerianSlaves #SpeakUpForLeah #SilentSlaughter