The US has conferred the 1st ‘International Religious Freedom Award’ on an 84-year-old Nigerian imam who selflessly risked his own life to shelter and protect Christians during June 2018 attacks in Nghar Yelwa village, central Nigeria.
“Imam Abubakar Abdullahi selflessly risked his own life to save members of another religious community, who would have likely been killed without his intervention,” US State Department published on its website.
“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 awards ceremony was hosted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday, July 17.
The award honors extraordinary advocates of religious freedom from around the world.
Abubakar received the award alongside Ivanir dos Santos of Brazil, William and Pascale Warda from Iraq, and Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud from Cyprus.
The imam’s courageous action came to public after reports revealed how he saved about 300 persons when suspected Fulani herdsmen invaded about 15 communities in Barkin Ladi LGA, killing scores.
“I hid the women in my personal house and after that, I took the men into the mosque and hid them there,” Imam Abubakar said at the time of the attack.
Honors At Home
After the award, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday that he is delighted at award conferred on Imam Abdullahi.
“On behalf of the Federal Government, President Buhari heartily congratulates Imam Abubakar on the well-deserved honour by no less a credible and formidable government agency of the United States,” Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, wrote in a statement cited by Premium Times Nigeria on Thursday.
“The president recommends the sterling virtues of Imam Abdullahi to all clerics, in particular, and Nigerians in general.
“He also strongly affirms the commitment of this administration to freedom of religion and worship for all Nigerians, as guaranteed by the Constitution, stressing that under no circumstance will any religion or faith be imposed on the nation.