U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo honored six individuals for their tireless advocacy of religious freedom at a ceremony during the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington.
“They’ve risked their own reputation, their personal comfort, their own well-being, and in some cases even their lives to help strangers, many of whom practice faiths that are different from their own,” Pompeo said July 17. Here are their stories:
Mohamed Yosaif Abdalrahan, Sudan
Mohamed Yosaif Abdalrahan defends Sudan’s religious minorities as a lawyer and activist with the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative. A member of Sudan’s Muslim majority, he advocates stronger legal protections for minority religious communities and helps them navigate the country’s judicial system. “My defense of religious freedom in Sudan is the least that I could do,” he said.
William and Pascale Warda, Iraq
William and Pascale Warda of Iraq founded the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization in 2003, a nonprofit, apolitical organization that monitors human rights violations in Iraq. The organization has documented ISIS atrocities against Yazidis, Christians and other minorities. “The solution for our world is charity and love,” Pascale said. “We are called to make a difference.
Ivanir dos Santos, Brazil
Ivanir dos Santos is a priest of the Afro-descendant religion Candomblé in Brazil, a faith that is often a target of discrimination and physical attacks in Brazil. He is the founder of the Commission to Combat Religious Intolerance and the Center for Marginalized Populations, both of which help vulnerable groups. Santos rallies thousands from all religious backgrounds at events such as the Walk in Defense of Religious Freedom in Rio de Janeiro.
Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud, Cyprus
Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud of Cyprus is an architect of a peace-building initiative in Cyprus called the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process. She has been its executive director since 2012. For almost 30 years, she has worked with faith-based institutions in Europe and the Middle East to promote interfaith understanding.
Abubakar Abdullahi, Nigeria
Imam Abubakar Abdullahi of Nigeria risked his life in 2018 when he intervened to save 262 Christians and other individuals. In a mosque and his home next to the mosque, the imam sheltered hundreds fleeing from ethnic Fulani herdsmen who were attacking them. When Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo commended his actions in May, Abdullahi said, “God created mankind differently, but he wants us to live together in peace and harmony, and not harm each other.” (Abdullahi was unable to attend the awards ceremony.)