This week, the 83-year-old Nigerian Imam Abubakar Abdullahi was among four other nationals (from Sudan, Brazil, Iraq and Cyprus) to receive the first-ever International Religious Freedom Award of the United States Government.
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.
In a country such as Nigeria where religious difference has the potential of turning deadly, Imam Abubakar is a shining symbol of hope for a better future, where Muslims and Christians will see themselves first as human beings, as brothers and sisters created by the One God.
Below is his profile on the award programme:
“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.”