By Deborah Castellano Lubov

A Nigerian cleric and spokesman of the Sharibu family has reacted to rumors that Leah Sharibu, the Christian schoolgirl held captive by Boko Haram for refusing to convert to Islam, had given birth to a baby boy fathered by a Boko Haram commander and had subsequently converted to Islam. Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, speaking with Aid to the Church in Need, said these must be false claims or a situation of rape and forced conversion.

“How can a 17-year-old girl, abducted when she was 14, consent to bearing a child for her abductors? This can only be as a result of forced sex. I would not believe that Leah at that age would consent to become a mother. She wanted go to university and she would be starting university now but she is still in captivity. If they forced her and raped her, we cannot say that she consented”, the evangelical pastor said.

Furthermore, as regards the rumor that Leah had converted to Islam Rev. Para-Mallam added: “We know that Leah decided to remain where she is because of the convictions of her Christian faith. If Leah had wanted to become a Muslin in order to gain her freedom, she would have simply denied Christ and be set free on 21 March 2018 but Leah refused. So, if she refused and went back on account of her Christian faith, it defies all logic to say that now she has become a Muslim”.

“Again, it is forced conversion and it cannot stand. We need to continue to work and to pray for Leah to be set free. Let us pray also for her family. The parents are going through a difficult time. Everyday reminds me that we have a precious soul that has been denied her freedom, her fundamental human right”.

Leah Sharibu was kidnapped along with 109 other students on 19 February 2018 when Boko Haram attacked a boarding school in the city of Dapchi, in the state of Borno in north-eastern Nigeria. Some of the girls died in captivity. A month later all the others (101) were released, except Leah. Those who were released testified that Leah was the only Christian of the group and the terrorists had forced her to convert to Islam, but she had refused.

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