African Victims of Persecution to Hold Prayer Vigil and Rally at Capitol Saturday
Washington, DC – As prayer activists plan a vigil at the Capitol for a Nigerian kidnap victim, lawmakers move to pressure the government of Nigeria to act.
Friends of Leah Sharibu, the schoolgirl who refused recant her faith to Boko Haram terrorists in 2017, will gather at the Grant Memorial on the West face of the Capitol on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
A petition to President Muhammadu Buhari signed by three U.S. Senators and 11 Congressmen was released Wednesday. The letter thanks the government of Nigeria for its efforts to gain the release of all the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in February of 2017 but asks the president to do more.
“The United State and Nigeria maintain a strategic relationship critical to both our interests and is built on mutual values which cannot be reconciled with Leah’s ongoing imprisonment,” according to the letter. “We respectfully urge your administration to use the full extent of your power to secure Leah’s safe return.” Signers included Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Benjamin Cardin; Congressmen who signed included Gus Bilirakis; Christopher Smith; Doug Lamborn, Vickey Hartzler, Louie Gohmert, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Daniel Lipinski, Jamie Raskin, Sheila Jackson Lee, Juan Vargas and Chrissy Houlahan.
“Both Tony Perkins and Sen. Cruz said they were committed to keeping Leah’s release in the forefront of their mission, and we will see many other senators and congressmen join the letter as signers,” according to Faith McDonnel, an executive of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who attended the meeting. “This letter is a great start!”
“The International Committee on Nigeria welcomes the growing advocacy on Capitol Hill for the release of Leah Sharibu and other schoolgirls kidnapped by Nigerian terrorists, and there is great hope stirring that the hundreds of thousands of Nigerian emigres in the United States are starting to speak up,” says Kyle Abts, co-founder of ICON and a sponsor of the rally Saturday. “It is encouraging that the current Administration is forward leaning on religious freedom in Nigeria,” Abts added.
The mother of Leah Sharibu, along with Dr. Gloria Puldu, the president of the Leah Foundation, were surrounded by praying believers on Thursday, Oct. 24 in the Hart Senate Office building where Cruz and Tony Perkins, a commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) spoke in support. “Leah is a Christian. A Christian who refuses to renounce her faith and convert to Islam. And that is why she is still being held hostage by Boko Haram,” Cruz reportedly said at the meeting. “There is hope and there is power. A few voices like a candle in the dark of a cave can light the very darkest recesses. Our voices together are powerful.” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee attended the meeting and gave her condolences to Rebecca Sharibu.
Abts and other activists with ICON are urging the appointment of a special envoy to the Lake Chad Basin to coordinate the resources of all nations in the region in the wake of advances by Boko Haram in the eastern part of Nigeria, and vicious ethnic terrorism in the Middle Belt of that nation. The call for a special envoy to Nigeria was echoed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo at an ICON sponsored press conference at the National Press Club on Oct. 14 and at the Wilson Center and the Hudson Institute the following day. Former President Obasanjo warned at all these meetings that Fulani-tribe terrorists and Boko Haram soldiers were combining in the state of Mali, nearby to Nigeria. He warned that if Fulani extremists and the Islamic State fighters of Boko Haram capture a failed state such as Libya then, “all nations north of the River Congo would be in trouble.”
The Prayer Vigil for Leah will be held at the U.S. Capitol, First Street SE, Washington, D.C at the reflecting pool on the West side of the Capitol at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.