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World News

Justin Welby meets Leah Sharibu's mother as pressure mounts for UK government to help Christian schoolgirl

by Tola Mbakwe

The Archbishop of Canterbury has met with the mother of a Christian Nigerian school girl who was kidnapped by terror group Boko Haram.

Most Rev Justin Welby said he was honoured to have communion with Rebecca Sharibu on Thursday. 

This week marks two years of captivity for 16-year-old Leah. She was kidnapped along with 109 other girls from her school in Dapchi. Leah's classmates were later released, but her captors have refused to let her go because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. 

MP David Linden has written to the Prime Minister calling on the British government to do everything in its power to help secure Leah's release.

Mr Linden writes: "The context of Ms Sharibu's continuing captivity provides clear evidence that she has been held captive because of her religious beliefs… It is a terrible indictment of the Nigerian government's failure to assist a vulnerable citizen, and of an international community that has not held it sufficiently to account for this."

Mr Linden adds in a video message: "We will work tirelessly to ensure that Leah is back with her family where she belongs. We'll do that through prayer, we'll do that through campaigning, because ultimately we know that chains can be broken."

Leah Sharibu
Leah Sharibu

On Wednesday, Leah's mother joined a protest organised by religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) outside the Nigerian High Commission in London. Rebecca delivered a petition with 12,132 signatures calling on the Nigerian government to take action to secure Leah's release.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "We welcome this letter from David Linden MP, and every effort made to draw international attention to Leah's case. We continue to call on the Nigerian government to do everything in its power to secure Leah's immediate and unconditional release, and urge the international community to assist wherever possible."

In a statement on the two year anniversary on Wednesday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said that his government was still working to secure her release and will "redouble its efforts".

"We say, as the government for and of all Nigerians, that no person has the right to force another to change their faith against their will and that all life is sacred," he said. 

"This government continues and seeks to secure the release of all children and captives of terrorists - and we do so regardless of their creed or the name of their creator.

"As we redouble our efforts for Leah's return, we can never allow the terrorists to divide us - Christian against Muslim, Muslim against Christian. We are all Sons of Abraham. And all Nigerians have the same worth and rights before the law, and before God".

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