Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, along with four religious leaders from Sudan, Iraq, Brazil and Cyprus, were awarded with the 2019 International Religious Freedom Award. This award is given to advocates of religious freedom.
Abdullahi was honoured for providing shelter for hundreds of Christians fleeing attacks from Muslim herdsmen. They had launched coordinated attacks on Christian farmers in 10 villages on June 23. The cleric was asked about their whereabouts by their attackers but courageously refused to give them up.
“The imam gave refuge to his Christian neighbors, sheltering 262 Christians in his mosque and his home…. then stood outside the doors confronting the Muslim attackers, pleading with them to spare the lives of the Christians inside, even offering to exchange his own life for theirs,” governor Brownback said.
“His actions bear witness to true courage, true selflessness, and true brotherly love,” he said.
Unfortunately more than 80 people were killed during the attacks by suspected herders who also set fire on many homes in the villages. Had it not been for the courage of the cleric, more people would have lost their lives. This conflict between the mostly Muslim herdsmen and the predominantly Christian farmers dates back to 2013.
The other winners
Ivanir dos Santos of Brazil worked hard to support interfaith dialogue, fight discrimination, and create mechanisms for the protection of vulnerable groups.
Mohamed Yosaif Abdalrahan of Sudan worked tirelessly to defend the rights of Sudan’s religious minorities, through public advocacy and also legal casework.
Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud of Cyprus has fully committed herself to working with religious leaders, and religious communities and faith-based organizations on a wide range of issues, including religious freedom.She is also one of the architects of a peacebuilding initiative in Cyprus known as the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process.
William and Pascale Warda of Iraq have devoted their lives to promote religious freedom and other human rights causes in their country.