TODAY campaigners and protestors will gather in London outside the Nigerian Embassy to mark the two year anniversary of Leah Sharibu being held captive. On February 19, 2018, at 5.30 pm, 110 schoolgirls aged 11 to 19-years-old were kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist group from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College. Dapchi is located in Yobe State, in the north east part of Nigeria.

A month later on March 21, 2018, 104 out of the 110 abducted girls were released. Their kidnappers advised the girls’ parents not to send them to school again and that “boko” (education) was “haram” (forbidden) for girls. The advice would be backed up with violence.

Of the six girls not released that day it later transpired that five had died during their ordeal. Just one of the Dapichi schoolgirls remained hostage. Her friends reported that Leah Sharibu, a Christian schoolgirl aged 14 at the time of her capture, was not released with the other children because she refused to convert to Islam – or to be more precise, the unorthodox and mangled version of the faith practised by her kidnappers.

Over the past two years Leah’s plight has become a symbol of the plight of thousands of young girls in Nigeria. The Nigerian Guardian newspaper named Leah as their person of the year in 2018, describing her as a “goddess of resistance” before continuing ‘‘she has since become the symbol of Nigeria’s refusal to give in to agents of darkness, hell-bent on dividing the country and appropriating a section of the nation’s territory unto themselves. She turned down personal liberty and chose to put her life on the line so that the whole of Nigeria may fulfil the promise of freedom and prosperity. She is a true heroine.”

In October 2018 the country’s president Muhammadu Buhari assured Leah’s parents, Rebecca and Nathan, that the federal government would do its utmost for the safety and security of their daughter. The abject failure of government action in the eight months prior to that promise has been followed by 16 months of despair and longing for the Sharibu family.

It’s tempting in such situations to think nothing can be done by anyone living in the North of England that would have an impact on the Government of Nigeria. But the example of Peter Benenson, the Christian lawyer who founded Amnesty International in 1961 after reading about the harsh treatment and imprisonment of two Portuguese students in Columbia, suggests otherwise. The two students were freed as a result of a letter writing campaign and more than 50 years on some seven million people have put pen to paper (or sent an email) leading to the freedom of thousands of individuals around the world.

The case of Leah Sharibu has been adopted by Christian Solidarity Worldwide and other organisations who are encouraging people across the globe to write to Nigerian Embassies, Members of Parliament, the Foreign Secretary and the United Nations in order to Free Leah. It may have been a while since you put pen to paper to write a letter. But let today be the day to pick up that pen again, to write a letter of freedom and in so doing release a 16 year old girl whose ongoing captivity is both a continuing tragedy and inspiration for action.