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Nigeria: Imam given award for saving nearly 300 Christians

September 2019

Abubakar Abdullahi SOURCE Barnabas Fund
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An elderly Imam who saved the lives of hundreds of Christians fleeing a murderous attack by Muslim Fulani militants in Nigeria, has received an award recognising his courage.

The 83-year-old man, called Abubakar Abdullahi, was given the US International Religious Freedom Award for selflessly risking his own life.

On 23 June 2018 militants attacked at least 10 villages in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area in Plateau State, killing scores of Christians and burning homes in a two-day rampage.

He risked his own life to shelter 262 fleeing Christians, hiding the women and children in his own home and secreting the men in the mosque in Nghar village. He then confronted the gunmen and refused them access.

He said later that he wanted to help because, 40 years previously, Christians in the area had allowed Muslims to build the mosque in Nghar. He said it was the first time he had experienced such ‘an ugly incident’ in all the years that Muslims had lived in a neighbouring village to the Christian farmers.

Nigeria has seen escalating violence against Christians by Islamist terrorists, both by Fulani and Boko Haram extremists, with thousands killed, injured and displaced over the past decade as attacks continue.

However, many Muslim officials have taken action to help prevent further violence. In June, Barnabas Fund reported that a Muslim Nigerian judge sided with a Christian group who were alarmed by proposals by the hard-line Islamist Kaduna State government to screen and license pastors.

Justice Hajara Gwadah said it was an ‘affront to this honourable court’ that Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s administration had attempted to push through the law, knowing court proceedings, brought by a Christian denomination, were imminent.

The judge added that while the northern state had the power to regulate religious activities, the plan to vet and license pastors was a gross violation of fundamental human rights, and was inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution.