Two humanitarians, each of whom work on a global level to relieve suffering of displaced persons and refugees in conflict zones, have been named the laureates of the 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize and will split a $1 million cash award.
Dr. Gino Strada of Italy, founder of Emergency, a medical crisis-relief organization, was selected for his 25 years of service to refugees in life-threatening circumstances in Asia, the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and conflict zones in Africa.
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, an educator known as “the mother of Afghan education,” was also selected for establishing the Afghan Institute of Learning and providing education and vocational training to refugees for 21 years.
Both of the 2017 Sunhak laureates have played a role in easing suffering in the lives of millions of people.
Dr. Hong Ik-sik, chairman of the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee, said Dr. Strada and Dr. Yacoobi represent the “heroes of today” who go beyond national borders to express love and service to humanity.
The theme of the 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize is the current “refugee crisis,” he said at the International Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 29.
“While disapora has been one of our oldest recurring adaptive measures to crises occurring throughout the history of civilizations, now more than ever, this problem should be handled as one of the most important issues of our era,” Dr. Hong said.
The Sunhak Peace Prize was established in February 2013 by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon to honor — and continue — the active commitment to peace that characterized the life of her late husband, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon. The Sunhak Peace Prize will be presented annually in recognition of “those who have dedicated their lives in service to humanity and the noble ideal of peace.”
The first Sunhak Peace Prize was awarded in 2015 to Kiribati President Anote Tong and Indian aquaculture scientist Dr. M. Vijay Gupta, in honor of the prize’s first theme that “the ocean is essential to future peace.”
The hundreds of candidates for the second Sunhak Peace Prize were nominated for their efforts to serve the world’s massive, displaced-persons population — the largest seen since World War II, Dr. Hong noted.
Dr. Strada, a war surgeon who has worked with the International Red Cross, established Emergency as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in 1994. It now operates more than 60 emergency medical and surgical facilities in 17 nations. It is estimated his organization has saved some 8 million lives, including many people in life-threatening situations.
Dr. Strada sees “the right to be cured” as a basic and inalienable right, and seeks to see high-quality medical treatment offered free of charge to the world’s poorest people. He has received agreements from at least 11 governments in Africa committing them to that goal.
Dr. Yacoobi is known for her conviction that education is the only sustainable solution for the future of refugees — and her Afghan Institute of Learning, established as a NGO in 1995, has provided education and training to some 13 million refugees.
She is particularly committed to the education of girls and women. This has meant operating underground schools in areas dominated by the Taliban in order to educate some 3,000 girls.
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