CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Niwano Peace Prize awarded to Lebanese interreligious foundation

BEIRUT (CNS): Adyan, a Lebanese foundation for interreligious studies and spiritual solidarity, is the recipient of the 35th Niwano Peace Prize.
 
Announcing the international award in Beirut, Lebanon, on February 19, Maronite Father Fadi Daou, president of Adyan Foundation, said that the country had moved “a firm step further toward its recognition as a world centre for dialogue between cultures and religions.” 
 
He added, “Peace has a specific name in Lebanon, and that is ‘living-together.’” 
 
Father Daou is one of the five founders of Adyan (religions in Arabic), each of whom are followers of different denominations of Christianity and Islam.
 
Since its foundation in 2006, Adyan “has worked to take interreligious dialogue from apologetic debates and populist complacency, to a common commitment in what we call ‘religious social responsibility,’” Father Daou said.
 
The Tokyo-based Niwano Peace Foundation established the Niwano Peace Prize in 1983 to honour and encourage individuals and organisations that have contributed significantly to interreligious cooperation, thereby furthering the cause of world peace. It is named for Nikkyo Niwano, founder and first president of the lay Buddhist organisation Rissho Kosei-kai.
 
The award’s selection committee commended Adyan for valuing “religious diversity in promoting peace and social justice” and cited Adyan as “a visible and committed actor for peace in Lebanon and the broader region.”
 
Father Daou recalled Pope St. John Paul II’s declaration that “Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message” of coexistence for East and West.
 
“I really believe that this award, coming from Japan, is another voice—now from the East—to remind us of what John Paul II said,” Father Daou said.
 
“Worldwide, peace today signifies justice and the liberation of oppressed people,” Father Daou said, adding, “It also means stopping the implication of religion in political choices and ending linking religion to violence and extremism.”
 
He noted that while it is important to discover what is common among religions, it is even more essential is “to discover the differences between religions and to educate people—especially the youth—to respect those differences, as an expression of our belief in freedom of conscience and our refusal of all forms of coercion and takfirism (considering others as infidels).” 
 
Father Daou said the problematic reality in the Middle East “pushes us to go a step further in order to promote interreligious solidarity in the combat of extremism and of injustice.”
 
Recent Adyan initiatives include offering interfaith mediation dialogue and peace education to vulnerable Syrian citizens, both in Lebanon and Syria. In Iraq, working with journalists and civil society activists, Adyan focuses on spreading the values of inclusive citizenship and interreligious solidarity, particularly to heal the society from the traumas of Islamic State.
 
Father Daou said that Adyan will continue on its path “for the adoption of pluralism as a social and political value in Arab countries,” adding that, “It will also work for the promotion of resilience to all forms of extremism and for the development of social cohesion, spiritual solidarity, intercivilisational encounter and world stability.” 
 
By 2016, a decade after its foundation, Adyan had more than 3,000 members with some 35,000 direct beneficiaries in 29 countries.
 
Past Niwano Peace Prize recipients include Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara; Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talal; retired Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa, Israel; the late Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico; Swiss theologian. Father Hans Kung; the World Muslim Congress; and the Sant’Egidio Community.

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