Two Africans, A Nigerian and a Sudanese were among some individuals to receive the new International Religious Freedom Awards from the United States Department of State.
A ceremony to recognize their efforts at protecting religious minorities was held on Wednesday and hosted by department secretary Mike Pompeo.
A Nigerian imam Abubakar Abdullahi who was awarded risked his own life in 2018 during ethnic clashes targeted at predominantly Christian communities.
The gunmen during the clashes killed 84 people in a village called Nghar but Imam Abdullahi’s actions saved the lives of hundreds.
The U.S. state department said “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.”
Imam Abdullahi reportedly met the gunmen outside the mosque and refused to allow them inside.
He pleaded with the gunmen to spare the lives of the Christians and offered to sacrifice his life for theirs.
Mohamed Yosaif Abdalrahan
The Sudanese who also received the award was Mohamed Yosaif Abdalrahan, a human rights lawyer at the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI).
Abdalrahan according to the US department of state “worked tirelessly to defend the rights of Sudan’s religious minorities, both in his legal casework and through public advocacy.”
His advocacy campaigns have been towards protecting minority religious communities and ending discriminatory practices.
The department said “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.”