Last January, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “We stand for religious freedom everyplace American diplomacy is at work.”
The Order again thanks Secretary of State Pompeo for this announcement and hopes that it will lead the State Department to heed and act upon the pleas of these women. The persecution of Christians should be a focus of governments all across the world that have commitments to human rights and religious freedom. We hope that that there will soon be concerted U.S. government action to protect the Christians of Nigeria who are being subjected to ongoing harassment and persecution.
“3 Nigerian Women Beg for US to Help Stop Persecution of Christians,” by Carmel Kookogey, Daily Signal, July 1, 2019:
After 110 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists in February 2018, all but one eventually were released.
But Leah Sharibu, 16, is still held captive by the terrorists because of her refusal to renounce her Christian faith.
The trend of Christian persecution in the African country was discussed at a Heritage Foundation gathering last month, “Insecurity in Nigeria: Eyewitnesses Speak,” featuring three Nigerian women who shared their harrowing stories in hopes of prompting action from the U.S. government.
Here’s what they had to say.
‘A Prisoner of Conscience’
In Nigeria, Leah Sharibu is celebrated today as a martyr. Songs are composed about her, videos are produced, and books are written. But for Leah’s mother, getting her daughter back matters more than anything else.
“I stand here for pleading the government of U.S.,” Rebecca Sharibu said in tears and broken English during the Heritage event on Capitol Hill. “Please, help me. Please, help me. I need my daughter back. I need my daughter.”
Gloria Puldu, a friend of the family and a senior lecturer in the political science department at the University of Jos in central Nigeria, spoke on behalf of Sharibu.
Puldu explained why Leah was singled out among the 110 girls.
“The other girls, who are all Muslim girls, are released. … When [Leah] was told to renounce her faith and recite the Kalima-e-Shahadah—’Kalima-e-Shahadah’ means the Islamic faith creed—she refused to do that,” Puldu said. “That was the only reason that she was kept back.”
After Leah’s capture, Puldu said, her family and friends did everything they could to get the attention of the federal and local governments in Nigeria, without success.
She said that even though many people advocated government action on TV and social media, the Nigerian government has not done anything to free the teen.
“She is a prisoner of conscience,” Puldu said of Leah. “She didn’t do anything, but up till now, we did not get that attention. And that is why we are here. And what [Rebecca Sharibu is] saying is to plead with your government to please pressure our government, because our government seems unable to secure her release.”
‘If I Keep Quiet, to What Gain?’
Alheri Magaji is the daughter of the current leader of the Adara tribe in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna State.
The tribe, almost completely Christian, was attacked by Fulani militants from mid-February through April. Nearly 400 people—mostly women, children, and the elderly—were killed.
The Fulani militants, also called “Fulani herdsmen,” are a tribe of Muslims who, since this year’s attacks, have become more deadly to Nigerian Christians than the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram.
Magaji, who appeared to be in her late 20s, told the Heritage audience that she was warned not to speak about the persecution her tribe suffered because she might be killed or beaten by Kaduna State police. She said:
But I asked the person that called me, I said, “What have I got to lose if I don’t talk?” My family is killed every day. My dad was locked up for over a hundred days. My tribe is now extinct. So if I keep quiet, to what gain will that be?
The people who die every day are human beings, too. And if I have an opportunity to let the world know what’s happening in my hometown, I will do anything to be able to save—even if it’s one life.
The Nigerian government describes the Fulani’s attacks as merely “retaliatory.” But Magaji said the Adara people never have attacked the Fulani.
She told the story of a mother who was nine months pregnant with her fifth child when the Fulani came to attack the Adara tribe. About 400 Fulani militants with AK-47s came into the community at 6:30 a.m. on a February morning. The Adara, as hunters with no assault weapons, ran for cover and were unable to respond, Magaji said.
The Fulani told all the Adara children to lie down on the floor, Magaji said, and one of the woman’s sons began to cry when he saw his two siblings’ heads being severed.
“But when they got to the fourth child to slaughter, the Fulani men couldn’t find the child,” she said. “And [the mother] said God was telling her in the midst of that chaos that he’s alive, and he’s there.”
They searched everywhere, but they couldn’t find the fourth child. And he was sitting right there, in front of her. And she was trying to reach out and hold her kid, but she couldn’t even. And then when they went out and she ran to her kid, to hug him, they came back inside and then they cut off her left hand, and tried to sever her head, and then kicked her tummy. She started bleeding and passed out. It was the reverend father that came and rescued her.
By the time she woke up, her 9-month-old baby had died; they had operated on her and removed the child. Her only surviving child was the child that God protected from the Fulani herdsmen.
So I want to tell you that we believe in God. We know that God is the reason why we are even here to tell our story. What we’ve been through—it’s impossible to even stand and talk, because it’s so real when you’re living in situations like that.
Magaji said that although her people are “sleeping under the skies,” they are not asking for relief supplies.
We are here to beg people, beg you, beg the U.S. government, to please wade into the armada. We want justice for our land. We need our land back. We are 95% Christian, Adara. Adara is the largest Christian community in Kaduna State.
So we know it won’t end at Adara alone. There seems to be a systematic plan to take over Kaduna State and Nigeria as a whole. It is purely religious. Purely. I’m living this. It’s not something I read in the newspaper. It’s what we’re living….