More than a month after the notorious militant group Boko Haram kidnapped dozens of schoolgirls from a Nigerian college, reports indicate only one teen victim remains in captivity.
According to USA Today, Nathan Sharibu claimed earlier this week that his 15-year-old daughter Leah refused her captors’ demands that she deny her Christian faith and convert to Islam. That decision, he said, led to her current situation.
Leah Sharibu was one of 110 girls kidnapped from the Government Girls Science and Technical College when Boko Haram staged an attack on the Dapchi school in February. Five of those captured reportedly died while under the militants’ control.
This was the latest in a series of similar kidnappings by the group, which stands in fierce opposition to the education of women. Boko Haram translates from Hausa to mean “western education is forbidden.”
Following an agreement with the Nigerian government, the majority of the victims were released earlier this month.
Leah Sharibu — reportedly the only Christian girl taken — was not among them.
“My daughter is alive, but they wouldn’t release her because she is a Christian,” her father said. “They told her they would release her if she converted, but she said she will never become a Muslim.”
While Nathan Sharibu said he is “very sad” about his daughter’s current suffering, he is “also overjoyed” that she chose not to denounce her faith in Christ.
In addition to continued denunciation of the violent extremist group, the Nigerian government has also faced increased backlash following the latest kidnapping.
Critics say military officials knew of the impending attack on the Dapchi college, a charge the government flatly denies.
President Muhammadu Buhari, however, has addressed the continued pressure to secure the release of the remaining captive teen.
“Leah Sharibu will not be abandoned,” he pledged.
His political opponents, including National Action Council chairman Olapade Agoro, have supported measures that would see Buhari face a trial under the International Criminal Court in the Hague if the girl is not safely released.
Nigerian politician Ben Murray-Bruce is among those who have expressed support for the Christian teen’s resolve.
Leah has refused to negotiate her faith with terrorists. She has shown that you don’t negotiate with terrorists. Between Boko Haram and Leah, who has the power? It is Leah. Without guns and bombs, she has overpowered her captors. May God bring Leah, my hero, safely back home.
— Ben Murray-Bruce (@benmurraybruce) March 28, 2018
As Agoro sees it, the government was able to successfully negotiate the release of every other surviving captor and should be able to do the same for the sole Christian.
“President Buhari should engage his negotiating machinery to get Leah released unconditionally … since it is obvious that the federal government negotiated to get the other Dapchi students released,” he said.
Agoro went on to lament the “further physical and psychological trauma” Leah Buhari has been subjected to based on her adherence to her faith.
“It has now become a crime to be a Christian in Nigeria,” he said.
Though locals celebrated the release of 104 girls, their captors made it clear that the move should be seen as “a warning to you all” that the attacks could continue.
“We did it out of pity,” the group reportedly said. “And don’t ever put your daughters in school again.”
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