Religious freedom award for Nigerian Christian leader

Published 13 November 2012

The former National Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has received the Stefanus Prize for religious freedom.

Engineer Samuel Salifu is the fifth recipient of the award, which was presented to him during a ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

The Stefanus Prize was initiated in 2005 by the Stefanus Alliance International, a religious freedom organisation formerly known as the Norwegian Mission to the East (NMTE).

It is given to a person who has been prominent in the public sphere nationally or internationally "as a fearless campaigner for human rights, and particularly religious freedom".

Former recipients of the prize include Bishop Thomas of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

Accepting the award, Mr Salifu encouraged people to stand up for righteousness regardless of the personal cost.

He told of how his time as CAN Secretary for Northern Nigeria and his vocal criticism of religious discrimination led to a period on death row after he was falsely accused by the ruling military regime of involvement in a coup plot.

He was eventually freed after former US President George Bush requested the release of a personal friend who was facing death on the same trumped up charge.

Mr Salifu is now a board member of Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Nigeria branch and is in the middle of writing a book detailing the history of Christianity and persecution in the northern regions of the country.

Reverend Yunusa Nmadu, chief executive of CSW Nigeria, said, "CSW Nigeria congratulates one of our own on receiving an award that has not only encouraged him personally, but is also an encouragement to our organisation. This will go a long way towards strengthening our work as human rights advocates."

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said, "We congratulate Mr Salifu on receiving this prestigious award, which is well-deserved. We are delighted that his steadfast dedication and fearless contribution to the struggle for religious freedom and peace building in northern and central Nigeria over several decades has been recognised internationally, and will continue to support him in his efforts to ensure justice, peace and reconciliation between the major religious communities in the country."

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