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8-year-old refugee credits God for chess win

NEW YORK (BP) — A Christian Nigerian family seeking religious asylum in the U.S. credits God for their son’s New York statewide chess victory and their new apartment after two years of homelessness.

Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi won the New York State Primary Chess tournament in his age group and is preparing for the U.S. national championship in May. Tani only learned the game a year ago.

“He said with God all things are possible for me and my family,” Tani’s father Kayode Adewumi told News 4 New York.

Tani’s story has gone viral and drawn more than $200,000 through a Go Fund Me page Tani’s chess coach established. Hearing of the family’s two-year stay in a Manhattan homeless shelter, a donor arranged for the family to move into an apartment.

“It’s a wonderful day, because God has made it happen,” Kayode told News 4.

The Adewumis are seeking safety in the U.S. from Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group that has killed an estimated 30,000 people, mostly Christians, since 2011 in Nigeria and surrounding states. Boko Haram, along with militant Fulani herdsmen, are widely accused of attempted Christian genocide.

“I don’t want to lose any loved ones,” Kayode told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Tani and his family arrived in New York in 2017. “I feel American,” Kristof quoted Tani March 16, a week after the tournament. “I want to be the youngest grandmaster.”

Tani has practiced chess the past year on the floor of a homeless shelter and participates in his school’s chess club. He’s won several local awards.

Kayode rents a car to drive for Uber and is certified to sell real estate, and Tani’s mother Oluwatoyin Adewumi has passed a home health aide course, according to news reports. Immediately after an interview March 18 on NBC’s Today, the family moved into an apartment.

“The U.S. is a dream country,” Kayode told Kristof. “Thank God I live in the greatest city in the world, which is New York, New York.”

Tani’s story has been told internationally since his championship, with stories written from Africa, the United Kingdom and elsewhere posted on social media platforms.

Among those congratulating Tani is Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

“Congratulations to NY State chess champion Tani Adewumi,” Graham tweeted Wednesday (March 20). “Pray for [Tani’s family] as they’ve applied for religious asylum.”