The Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria has urged the Nigerian government to intensify efforts towards immediate and safe release of abducted Dapchi student, Leah Sharibu.
Miss Sharibu was one of the 110 students abducted by the Boko Haram terror group from their school in Dapchi on February 19.
One Hundred and four of the abducted students were later released, with five of them murdered by the group while 15 year old Miss Sharibu was reportedly denied freedom on the grounds of her refusal to renounce her Christian faith.
In a statement by the Secretary General of the CSN, Ralph Madu, on Wednesday, the church described the continued detention of Miss Sharibu as “an evidence of the high level of persecution against Christians around the world and especially in Nigeria”.
“As recently stated by Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto: ‘As it is with the history of our faith, these are no easy times to be a Christian anywhere in the world especially here in Nigeria. There is staggering but also verifiable evidence that Christians are today the most persecuted set of people anywhere in the world. Today, Christians are still faced with the challenges of proclaiming their Gospel in an environment that remains quite hostile to the Christian Message. Yet, as St. Paul said to Timothy: We must preach the Gospel, welcome or unwelcome (2 Tim. 4:2).’
“The 15-year old Leah has indeed become a symbol of the sufferings, persecutions, challenges and intimidation Christians face daily in Nigeria for expressing their faith especially in public.
“We use this medium to appeal to the Federal Government to go the extra miles in re-negotiating the unconditional release of Leah without further delay. We must remember that this is a secular country and the government has the responsibility of ensuring the safety of every Nigerian irrespective of religious, political and ethnic differences,” the CJN said in its statement.
The CSN described the actions of Miss Sharibu as a remarkable demonstration of courage and commended her parents for raising a child truly loyal to her faith.
“Leah must be commended for her heroism and courageous act exhibited before her abductors. At no time is the beauty and essence of Christianity better manifested than in this exemplary life of faith. For refusing to succumb to the intimation of Boko-haram abductors, Leah has followed the example of Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour, whose passion, death and resurrection we celebrate this period of Easter.
“We equally thank the parents of Leah for bringing up their daughter in a truly Christian way with love and fear of God over the fear of man; and commend their fortitude in bearing the present predicament of their daughter. This exemplary family life should be a lesson worthy of emulation by all Nigerian families and communities irrespective of religious affinity.”
The CSN urged Nigerians regardless of religious affiliations to follow the example of Miss Sharibu by demonstrating true faith in their religion as well as the fear of God, above the fear of man.
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN had earlier made a similar request and urged the National Assembly to organise a public hearing on the matter.
CAN in its statement on March 23, which was signed by the media assistant to the association’s President, Adebayo Oladeji, condemned the federal government for its inability to ensure the release of Miss Sharibu along with the other abducted girls.
It also asked the federal government to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter and publish the details of findings from the investigation.