MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 19th day of June, 2018.
Glad to have you along for today’s episode of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
The terror group Boko Haram continues to plague Nigeria, and the violence is all part of the group’s effort to carve out a caliphate for itself.
Over the weekend, six suicide bombers killed at least 20 people and injured 48 others in the northeastern part of Nigeria. That’s shocking enough, even more so when you hear that all the attackers were pre-teen girls.
The bombings targeted people as they celebrated the end of Ramadan. That’s Islam’s holy month.
Today marks four months since Boko Haram kidnapped dozens of girls from a boarding school in the town of Dapchi. Militants soon released all of those girls but one—15-year-old Leah Sharibu. Why was she singled out? She refused to renounce her Christian faith—even in the face of extreme danger.
Boko Haram’s crime is similar to the terror group’s kidnapping in 2014 of schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria. More than 100 of those girls remain captive in the Sambisa forest.
REICHARD: Onize Ohikere is our Africa correspondent who wrote about this in her recent story for WORLD Magazine. Onize, is there any update on Leah Sharibu’s case?
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Hi Mary. There is no update on Leah’s status. The militants kidnapped her along with about 109 other girls from a boarding school in Dapchi on February 19th. But the last word came on March 21st when the militants returned 104 of the girls. The girls confirmed that 5 of their classmates died while Boko Haram militants held onto Leah because she refused to denounce her faith.
In your article on the kidnapping, you mentioned how the Nigerian government remained mum on its efforts to rescue Leah. Has that changed?
OHIKERE: No, the government is still holding on to its stance that a silent approach is the best way to handle the case. In a statement last month, Information Minister Lai Muhammad said the government is still negotiating for her release, but gave no additional information.
Well, following the attack in the city of Dapchi, the school where the militants kidnapped the girls remained closed. Are things starting to normalize in the city?
OHIKERE: Yeah, we’re seeing a bit of a difference now. The Government Girls Science and Technical College reopened on May 7th but many parents still remained hesitant to send their children back. At the time, no more than about 220 of the schools’ 900 students returned. And a journalist who visited the school on the first day said she noted visible fear among the students and that’s because the militants warned them and their families that they would come back and kidnap if they went back to school. And we understand this because Boko Haram loosely translates western education as sin.
How are Christian groups within the country responding to the continued silence?
OHIKERE: So, since the kidnapping took place, several groups organized prayer meetings interceding for Leah’s release since her kidnapping. The state branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria, which is a national Christian group, repeatedly organized prayer sessions for her safe return. But what we’re seeing right now is some of these Christian groups are warning that the country’s unity hinges on Leah’s return. The Christian Association and another group called the Pentecostal Christian Association both warned in separate statements last month that the country could face even more religious clashes if Leah does not return.
You’ll continue to follow this story I know. Onize Ohikere is WORLD correspondent in Africa. Thank you, Onize!
OHIKERE: Thank you, Mary.