Wednesday, July 17, 2019

83-year old Nigerian Imam Abubakar Abdullahi wins International Religious Freedom Award for saving Christians

Imam Abubakar Abdullahi
An 83-year-old Nigerian Imam Abubakar Abdullahi will be among four other nationals (from Sudan, Brazil, Iraq and Cyprus) to receive the first-ever International Religious Freedom Award of the United States Government at an Awards ceremony slated for the 17th of July, 2019

He is the Imam of Nghar village who hid 262 Berom Christians in his mosque and in his house in June last year when herdsmen launched a bloody attack on 10 villages in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State.

Here is his citation as published on the US Department of State website:

Imam Abubakar Abdullahi selflessly risked his own life to save members of another religious community, who would have likely been killed without his intervention. On June 23, 2018, ethnic Fulani herdsmen, who are predominantly Muslim, launched coordinated attacks on 10 villages in Barkin Ladi, killing hundreds of ethnic Berom farmers, who are predominantly Christian. 
As Imam Abdullahi was finishing midday prayers, he and his congregation heard gunshots and went outside to see members of the town’s Christian community fleeing. Instinctively, the Imam ushered 262 Christians into the mosque and his home next to the mosque. The Imam then went outside to confront the gunmen and he refused to allow them to enter, pleading with them to spare the Christians inside, even offering to sacrifice his life for theirs. Although the gunmen killed 84 people in Nghar village that day, Imam Abdullahi’s actions saved the lives of hundreds more. 

Born in Bauchi State around 1936, the Imam has lived in Nghar for 60 years and led the Muslim community through the mosque, which was built on land provided by the Christian community. Imam Abdullahi’s courage in the face of imminent danger and his history of outreach across religious divides demonstrates his lifelong commitment to promoting interfaith understanding and peace.

The US State Department's International Religious Freedom Award honours extraordinary advocates of religious freedom from around the world.

The other awardees are 
  • Mohamed Yosaif Abdalrahan of Sudan has worked tirelessly to defend the rights of Sudan’s religious minorities, both in his legal casework and through public advocacy.
  • Ivanir dos Santos of Brazil worked exhaustively to support interfaith dialogue, combat discrimination, and create mechanisms for the protection of vulnerable groups.
  • William and Pascale Warda of Iraq have devoted their lives to advancing religious freedom and other human rights causes in Iraq.
  • Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud of Cyprus has fully committed herself to working with religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and religious communities on a broad range of issues, including religious freedom. She is also one of the architects and facilitators of an unprecedented peacebuilding initiative in Cyprus known as the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden based in Nicosia, Cyprus.

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