Washington — United States has conferred 1st International Religious Freedom Award on a 84-year-old Nigerian Imam on Wednesday for protecting the lives of 300 Christians by risking his own life during June 2018 communal clashes in Nghar Yelwa village in central Nigeria.
84-year-old Imam Abdullahi Abubakar was praised by the US State Department for selflessly risking his own life to save members of another religious community, who would have likely been killed without his intervention, Department’s website quoted.
The awards ceremony was conducted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to recognize and honor the extraordinary people who advocate religious freedom across the globe.
Other recipients of the award were Ivanir dos Santos of Brazil, William and Pascale Warda from Iraq, and Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud from Cyprus.
Imam Abubakar’s bravery and chivalry came to public eyes after reports revealed how he saved 300 Christians when suspected Fulani herdsmen invaded about 15 communities in Barkin Ladi after killing scores of people.
“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.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appreciated US recognition of Imam Abubakar’s bravery.
“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.
“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,” the statement mentioned.