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Religious honoured for defence of nature

MANILA (SE): A priest from Manila and an Augustinian brother were both honoured for their dedication to the protection of the environment and the interests of indigenous people at separate functions in The Philippines during March.

Father Edwin Gariguez received an honorary doctorate in humanities from Ateneo de Cagayan do Oro University on March 17 for his long battle against nickel mining in Mindoro.

On March 16, Brother Jaazeal Jakosalem was presented with the Green Ring Award by the former vice president of the United States of America, Al Gore, in a ceremony at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel in Pasay City.

In presenting the doctorate to Father Gariguez, the president of the university, Father Roberto Yap sj, praised him for protecting the interests and wellbeing of the indigenous peoples and the delicate bio-diversity of the island.

Father Yap described his work as an inspiring example of responding to the call of Pope Francis “to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

Father Yap said in his letter to Father Gariguez, “The vocation you have patiently and perseveringly pursued in the peripheries, has truly been serving the faith that does justice and promotes ecological stewardship.”

Father Garuguez is the secretary of Caritas Philippines and has been at the forefront of leading the Church response to the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda.

In 2012, he was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for his work in protecting indigenous communities. Recognised as the biggest environmental award in the world, it recognises individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.

The Goldman Prize views grassroots leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them.

The 2015 recipient was Berta Cáceres, from Honduras. Exactly one year later, she was murdered in her home—a martyr to her work in protecting her people and the environment (Sunday Examiner, March 20).

Brother Jakosalem said in responding to Gore, “I am humbled for receiving the award in the midst of dedicated environmental activists and the 700 new climate warriors. I felt small, because I am aware of their amazing work for the Earth.”


In 2010, Brother Jakosalem participated in Gore’s project training in Beijing. He said that this enabled him to deepen his understanding of the climate crisis and helped him to imaging new solutions to old problems.

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