Seoul, Korea—Two persons who have been a godsend to countless refugees were awarded the Sunhak Peace Prize during World Summit 2017.
Dr. Gino Strada, founder of Emergency, an organization that provides medical and surgical care in Africa and the Middle East to civilian victims of war, and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute for Learning, which provides refugee-educational programs in Afghanistan, were the recipients of the prize in its second year.
More than 700 dignitaries from 120 nations, including current and former presidents, vice presidents, and leaders of parliament, academia, business, media and religion, attended the emotional ceremony held at the Lotte Hotel World in Seoul on February 3, 2017, the third day of the World Summit.
The Sunhak Peace Prize was formally proposed on February 20, 2013, by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, who also co-founded UPF. The prize honors the legacy of her husband, the late Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, who dedicated his life to realizing world peace, prosperity and coexistence.
Dr. Il Sik Hong, the former president of Korea University and chair of the Seoul-based Sunhak Peace Prize selection committee, initially announced the two winners on November 29, 2016, at an awards banquet held during a UPF International Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
While the first Sunhak Peace Prize, awarded in 2015, dealt with climate change and the food crisis, the 2017 Sunhak prize focuses on the refugee crisis. The peace prize, Dr. Hong said, is awarded to “those who have dedicated their lives in service to humanity and the noble ideal of peace.” Dr. Strada and Dr. Yacoobi represent the “heroes of today,” who go beyond national borders to express love and service to humanity, he said.
In his welcoming address, Dr. Hong congratulated this year’s laureates, “two outstanding individuals who have dedicated themselves to realizing peace for the sake of humanity.” Regarding the “record-breaking global refugee crisis,” he said, “We must approach and understand this issue from the higher vantage point, that is, the history of civilizations. Diaspora, throughout the ages, has been one of the oldest adaptation strategies of humankind. Migration is a strategy for survival. Hence, going forward, migration will be an even more important issue in the effort to establish a world of peace for all.”
The laureates “have devoted their lives to providing basic and fundamental solutions to the refugee crisis,” Dr. Hong said. “In order for the world to become a peaceful community, no one should be excluded from the right to medical aid and education. The world in the 21st century must overcome an order that is based on the logic of force, which begets enmity, conflict and discord, and establish itself as a community of peace and coexistence, reconciliation and cooperation based on universal principles.”
After the showing of videos especially created about the laureates and their work, Dr. Strada and Dr. Yacoobi each received a beautiful plaque and medal from Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and Dr. Hong.
In his acceptance speech, Dr. Gino Strada thanked the hosts for their work for peace and dialogue in the name of the human family. There is a compelling need to build a better world, he said. Dr. Strada described the results of war that he has seen over the past three decades in many war-torn countries. The organization that he founded, Emergency, provides free, high-quality treatment. Most people in the world do not have contact with war or any experience with the lack of medical treatment.
“For most of us they seem so far and alien from our daily life. It is so easy to listen to the news without realizing that after every bomb, after every shell, there are people struggling to survive,” he said. Ninety percent of the victims of wars are civilians, “people equal to us,” Dr. Strada said. Last year more than 60 million people were forced to leave their homes, looking for protection and safety. He called on world citizens “to take action and conquer peace.”
In accepting the prize, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi spoke about her work and the vision that inspired her. She said the purpose of this prize is to remember the ideology of peace as taught and practiced by Rev. and Mrs. Moon: “We are one family under God.”
Dr. Yacoobi expressed outrage at the refugee situation today. She herself experienced life as a refugee. “I know how the refugees feel: They lost everything, loved ones, their dignity and resilience. … No one wants to leave, but when war breaks out, people are forced to leave.” Refugees who fled their homes are being forced to return to their countries because the world is not accepting them, she said. “People in Afghanistan are human beings just like anyone else. They need help.” Dr. Yacoobi called for education programs that teach “wisdom, love, dignity, responsibility, and cooperation.”
H.E. Anote Tong, one of the two recipients of the first Sunhak Peace Prize in 2015, congratulated Dr. Strada and Dr. Yacoobi, thanking them for their “lifelong dedication to the well-being of refugees and war victims.” The former president (2003-2016) of the Republic of Kiribati said that their accomplishments are very much in the spirit of the UPF founders’ vision to build “One Family under God” and that their efforts complement the founders’ global work for peace and development.
President Tong congratulated the participants of the World Summit for their contributions to peace. He reflected on his own experience of receiving the previous peace prize for his work in educating the world about the danger of climate change. President Tong described climate change as “the most significant moral challenge for humanity. We’re fighting against ourselves, not another nation.” The nations of the world have a moral obligation to help one another, he said, and in closing, “Peace starts within us; then you can pass it on.”
The awards ceremony was an exquisite affair with pomp and circumstance. The entertainment included the world-famous Little Angels Children’s Folk Ballet of Korea, as well as Korean entertainers Ms. Kolleen Park and Mr. Jaerim Choi. The stage was well designed with bright colors and backdrops. The high-quality videos about the laureates were professional and inspirational.