The parents of the Nigerian Christian girl held by Boko Haram say they have renewed hope that she might safely return home after a short audio recording her kidnappers released last week.
In the 35-second recording, Leah Sharibu is heard asking for help for her family and herself, calling on Nigeria’s president to help secure her release. A photo shows her sitting on a pink-patterned carpet in a hijab.
“When I heard her voice and saw the picture where she is sitting down with a hijab on, I began to cry,” her mother told World Watch Monitor by telephone. “’Oh God, see my little Leah, she has been forced to wear hijab, God please bring her back to me!’ I kept lamenting as I cried.
“As a mother it has not been easy for me at all [but] this audio recording has brought hope to me and I believe that her freedom is on the way,” she said.
It’s been more than six months since 15-year-old Leah disappeared. She was the only Christian among 110 girls abducted by an Islamist group, believed to be a break-away faction from Boko Haram, during a raid on their school in Dapchi, in the north-eastern state of Yobe.
The group later released 104 of the girls, with the others thought to have died in captivity.
Leah was held because she refused to denounce her faith, according to her father, Nata Sharibu. He said in March, after hearing that Leah had turned down an opportunity to be released if she converted to Islam, that he was “very sad but also jubilant because my daughter did not denounce Christ”.
“Each day I wake up I think about Leah and the condition that she is in,” her mother said.
“Anytime I feel discouraged and start crying, God just sends someone to visit me or to call and encourage me. When I remember that Christians all over the world are praying for Leah, it gives me strength to carry on.”
In April Leah sent her mother a message via her released friends, saying: “My mother you should not be disturbed. I know it is not easy missing me, but I want to assure you that I am fine where I am … I am confident that one day I shall see your face again. If not here, then there at the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“My joy knows no bounds,” Leah’s father said following the latest news. “That wonderful day when my neighbour came running to me and showed me that video clip on the Internet. I heard my Leah’s voice. My wife began to cry and I pleaded with her not to cry. Gradually she stopped crying and started singing praises to God.”
“Honestly, I believe that Leah is alive today because of the prayers of believers,” he said and added that Leah’s call was theirs too: “My plea is this: I am calling on Christians in high positions all over the world to raise their voices and plead with our president to bring back my Leah. She has pleaded in her audio clip that top Christians should help us. I plead the same.”