Community Receives UNESCO Peace Prize

Paris- France (PANA) -- UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura Thursday awarded the 1999 Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize to the Community of Sant'Egidio, which was represented by its founder President Andrea Riccardi.
Sant'Egidio is a Rome-based movement present in nearly 60 countries, including more than 20 African countries.
Members, moved by faith, lead lives of solidarity with the poorest and those injured by life.
Matsuura described the Prize as "a major instrument for the promotion of peace in the world" adding that "the name of Felix Houphouet-Boigny which is associated to it symbolises the quest for human peace and brotherhood.
" The UNESCO Director-General paid tribute to the memory of the late Ivorian leader and his commitment to peace, recalling the strong impression he had left on him when he was a young diplomat in West Africa in the 1960s.
Matsuura praised the Community of Sant'Egidio's humility, determination to listen to others and perseverance in its work for the very poor and in favour of inter-faith relations.
"The Community has moved on to work for peace through dialogue in various conflicts in which it has been made to act as mediator," he said, adding that "the results it has obtained in this area are the finest reward it could wish for and prove the efficiency of its methods.
" The UN official recalled "the essential role played by the Community in bringing peace to Mozambique, its considerable contribution to the peace process in Guatemala and its many endeavours in Europe, Africa and Latin America.
" Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of the Francophonie Organisation and former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali has praised "the Community of Sant'Egidio's genius in establishing dialogue and mediation.
" The ceremony held at the UNESCO Paris headquarters, was also attended by former Presidents Abdou Diouf of Senegal and Henri Konan Bedie of Cote d'Ivoire, as well as former European Commission President Jacques Delors.
Other dignitaries included Cote d'Ivoire Foreign Minister Abou Drahamane Sangare, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Louis Michel, and Mozambique Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Lidia Brito.
"Professor Riccardi made himself available to everyone," said Jacques Delors, underlining the community's work for the poor.
He noted the way the Community had "extended charity to politics" as an example for governmental and non-governmental organ.
Welcoming the fact that such an important Prize is named after an African, Sangare said that Cote d'Ivoire is proud and honoured to take part in the ceremony.
Bedie underscored the fact that the Prize was awarded to the Community of Sant'Egidio which "in a troubled world, toils to bring compassion, comfort and hope to victims" and "deserves the respect of all who struggle for a better world.
" He expressed the hope that "the spirit of Felix Houphouet- Boigny inspire the people of Cote d'Ivoire in its desire for peace, love and fraternity.
" Upon receiving the Prize, Riccardi spoke of his Community's work over more than 30 years to fight poverty in the North and in the South.
He said "among the numerous (forms) of poverty we face, the mother of all poverty is war.
" "In today's world, .
new frontiers are appearing: not only national but ethnic and religious (ones).
Frequently political groups unscrupulously use religious or ethnic motives to inflame aggression, especially after the collapse of many ideologies.
"The suspicion, scorn and prejudice which seem to be an inevitable heritage of the past, become, on the ground, threatening passions," he said.
UNESCO's General Conference at the initiative of 120 States created the Prize, comprising a cheque for 800,000 French francs, and a peace diploma, as well as a gold medal, in 1989.
It is awarded annually to people, institutions or organisations which have contributed significantly to the promotion, research, safeguarding or maintaining of peace, mindful of the UN Charter and the UNESCO Constitution.

01 february 2001 23:33:00

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