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Nigeria: Imam Who Saved 262 Christians from Muslim Gunmen Receives U.S. Religious Freedom Award

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Two African leaders were among those to receive the new International Religious Freedom Awards from the United States Department of State, at a ceremony hosted by department secretary Mike Pompeo, on Wednesday.

Abubakar Abdullahi

Nigerian imam Abubakar Abdullahi, who risked his own life during June 2018 ethnic clashes that targeted predominantly Christian communities.

“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,” the U.S. state department said. “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.

Mohammed Yosaif Abdalrahan

Also receiving an award was Mohamed Yosaif Abdalrahan of Sudan, a human rights lawyer at the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI), who has “worked tirelessly to defend the rights of Sudan’s religious minorities, both in his legal casework and through public advocacy,” the department said.

He leads advocacy campaigns to protect minority religious communities and end discriminatory practices, while organizing human rights training sessions for journalism, women’s rights and Sudanese youth.

“A member of Sudan’s Muslim majority, Mohamed has become a trusted ally of minority communities and has helped them navigate the country’s complex judicial system, deploying his strong technical knowledge in international human rights law and Sudanese constitutional law, and his outstanding dedication to use the law as a force for good,” the department said.

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