By Sam Eyoboka
AS the news continues to spread within social media that the 15-year old Christian Dapchi schoolgirl abducted on February 19 last year with 109 other students of Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi may have died in captivity, the International Christian Concern, ICC has debunked the rumour.
ICC is an ecumenical, non-governmental, non-partisan Christian organization, located in Washington DC, whose concern is the human rights of Christians and religious minorities with a mission to help religious minorities from all forms of persecution through assistance, advocacy, and awareness.
As “the sad news of Leah Sharibu’s death” continues to circulate in social media, our correspondent had an interview with ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Nathan Johnson and below are his responces.
Question: Is there a possibility that the lone 15-year old Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu and Alice Loksha, a UNICEF worker, both of whom recently celebrated one year in captivity, are still alive?
Answer: Yes, there is always hope that they are alive. The last time they spoke about the girls, Boko Haram even said that they would not kill them since they were not apostates. Instead, Boko Haram said that they would keep them as slaves for life. This does not mean, however, that they are okay.
Question: If they are, what’s their current state?
Answer: We do not know for certain what their state is, but judging by the experiences of other girls who have been captured and then escaped, we can guess that they are probably being beaten, forced to convert, raped, and possibly forced to marry Boko Haram sympathizers.
Question: Are there ongoing negotiations by Nigerian government or their agents for the girls freedom?
Answer: T8he government continues to say that they are working to secure her freedom, but I doubt to what extent they are trying. When they wanted to secure the release of the other 104 Dapchi girls, it took less than a month. That leaves some questions that are very difficult to answer on the government’s part.
Qiestion: We heard there was a demand of $1 billion made on Leah by the captors. Can you confirm that?
Answer: No, I cannot. If that is true, then they are not really trying to let her go, as they would know that the government would not pay that much.
Question: At a point, there were talks of lobbying the American Congress to declare Leah as Prisoner of Conscience. Is there a possibility of such? And if yes, what’s the implication?
Answer: Yes, it is possible that this could happen. I don’t know how much this would change the situation for Leah though. It would keep her in the media and in front of the government. It would also show that the United States cares about her case. On the other hand, Boko Haram is already a terrorist organization according to the US, so I doubt it would help secure her freedom, as the group does not care what the US says.
Question: We will appreciate any other information that will enliven the discourse of the heroine of Christianity and other captives.
Answer: T8he scariest thing is that Boko Haram seems to be having a resurgence currently. If they are able to regain the land and power that they once had, there could be many more cases like this in the near future. We pray that the Nigerian government takes this battle seriously.
Question: Do you think the Christian Community in Nigeria has done enough towards the campaign for their release?
Answer: I think that the people of Nigeria are doing what they can. However, according to reports, the southern half of the country where the majority of Christians live has not risen up to ensure that this kind of violence stops. I believe that the country’s Christians need to come together as the body of Christ and defend the people of Nigeria.