WASHINGTON – Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz demanded Thursday that Boko Haram release the last of 110 girls it captured a year ago, saying the kidnapping points to a larger problem of persecutions of Christians in many countries.

Leah Sharibu16,  was among 110 girls kidnapped in February 2018 in Northeast Nigeria by Boko Haram.

Five of the girls were killed during the kidnapping. In March, 104 of the girls were released from captivity, but Sharibu was apparently kept captive for not renouncing her Christian faith.

Cruz was joined by Sharibu’s mother, Rebecca, who cried as she pleaded for the audience to pray and to help her find her daughter. “Leah is not just my daughter,” she said through a translator. “…She is your daughter too.”

Cruz focused on instances of Christian persecution around the world. He said two women were killed in  Iran, apparently handing out Christian literature. “…They sentenced to death and whanged just for their Christian faith,” he said.

But he also focused on Nigeria specifically.

“The United States needs to convey a moral clarity on these issues and demand the government of Nigeria protect religious freedom,” Cruz said,

Cruz also noted that he had sent a letting urging the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom  to list Sharibu as a “prisoner of conscience,” a status given to those held captive for their faith.

USCIRF Chairman Tony Perkins said the commission didn’t immediately issue the designation for Sharibu because “in some cases when you elevate the profile of a prisoner it can make their situation worse.”

“But when Leah’s mother began speaking out…then we adopted her publicly as a prisoner of conscience,” he said.

Gloria Samdi Puldu, president of the LEAH Foundation, which advocates for the release of girls held hostage, and a native of Northeast Nigeria, said Boko Haram doesn’t want girls to get an education.

“I grew up in that part of Nigeria. I was fortunate enough to get an education and I know it’s value,” she said. “They know how powerful women can be when they are educated and thriving.”