February 4th marks the International Day of Human Fraternity, and the day of the ceremony for the awarding of the 2023 Zayed Prize for Human Fraternity, awarded this year to the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Kenyan peacemaker, Mama Shamsa.
Now in its fourth edition, the award recognises honourees from around the world for their contributions to building a more peaceful, and compassionate world based on the values of human fraternity.
The awards ceremony coincides with the International Day of Human Fraternity, which is unanimously recognised by the UN in acknowledgment of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, also known as the Abu Dhabi Declaration, signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed El Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar.
In order to further promote brotherhood and peaceful coexistence, the Zayed Prize for Human Fraternity this year focused on the theme of hope as a value and message. Grand Imam of Azhar, Dr. Mohamed Ahmed El Tayeb, and Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, delivered two virtual speeches during the ceremony, and greeted the 2023 prize winners.
Pope Francis said: “While we share feelings of fraternity with one another, we are urged to promote a culture of peace that encourages dialogue, mutual understanding, solidarity, sustainable development, and inclusion.
“I thank all those who join our fraternal journey, and I encourage them to commit themselves to the cause of peace and to respond to the concrete problems and needs of the marginalised, the poor, the defenceless, and those in need of our assistance.”
The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity represents a glimmer of hope and a source of inspiration for all those who love goodness and peace around the world, according to the Grand Imam, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb. “There is no doubt that the path of human fraternity is full of challenges and difficulties,” he said.” In this regard, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to our work on this award, which has become a global platform for presenting shining models that join the march of human fraternity, and support the efforts made to keep easing the suffering of the weak, the oppressed, and the poor for a more peaceful, just, and fraternal life,” the Grand Imam added.
The Community of Sant’Egidio is a humanitarian association dedicated to social service, founded in 1968 under the leadership of Andrea Riccardi. Subsequently, during the group’s expansion in 1973, it was given a home at the former Carmelite monastery and church of Sant’Egidio in Rome, Italy.
The Community’s most significant diplomatic achievement was the mediation of the Peace Agreement for Mozambique on 4 October 1992, which ended a sixteen-year civil war. Sant’Egidio has been described as “one of the most influential conflict resolution groups in the world” by the accolades it has received from a wide range of leaders.
One of its most prominent initiatives, ‘Humanitarian Corridors’ seeks to protect refugees and integrate them into their new societies. These corridors ensure safe passage for migrants by arranging air travel, while working in partnership with European airlines. This prevents them from taking small and dangerous boats to cross the Mediterranean Sea, an undertaking which has also helped fight human smuggling. To date, thousands of refugees have benefited from this initiative.
Since its founding, the association has played an active role in numerous successful peace negotiations as a facilitator or observer, which include Mozambique (1989-1992, peace treaty), Guatemala (1996, mediate civil war), Kosovo (1996-1998, negotiate with Serbia), Congo (1999, national dialogue), Burundi (1997-2000, peace treaty).
The Community of Sant’Egidio adopts religious diplomacy and intercultural dialogue to create peace, which has granted it worldwide recognition for strengthening the values of human fraternity.
The other winner, Shamsa Abubakar Fadhil, is a Kenyan peace mediator and community mobilizer. Known as ‘Mama Shamsa’, she is being recognized for nurturing youth in her home country and saving young people from lives of violence, crime, and extremism, by providing them with counselling, care, and training.
In 2014, she created a grassroots organisation, the ‘Focus on Women and Youth in Coast Province for Political Development’. Its success led to her election as the first woman to chair the Nyali Sub-county District Peace and Security Committee. Triggered by widespread criminal activities in Mombasa involving over 200 juvenile gangs, she pioneered a comprehensive campaign to reform affected youth. This evolved into a multi-sectoral engagement involving members and leaders from spheres of religion, civic service, government. Established in 2019, this campaign has contributed to the transformation of over 1000 youths who have opted out of criminal life and gained access to amnesty as well as counseling and training.
Fadhil assumed many roles, including heading the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and being granted the title ‘The Focal Peace and Cohesion Champion in the Coast Region’. She is also the chairperson of the Mombasa Women of Faith Network, in which she represents the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims. Under her leadership, the Network is fostering interfaith relations while countering community-level challenges, such as early marriages, an array of gender-based violence cases, and violent extremism.
Her zeal to bring cohesion, integration, and acceptance of diversity among women – irrespective of tribe, religion, status, or political affiliation – led to her appointment as representative of the board of the African Women of Faith Network.
The honouring ceremony, which was held on Saturday at the Founder’s Memorial, was attended by Saqr Ghobash, Speaker for the Federal National Council, Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, Mohammed Abdullah Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Federal Protocol and Strategic Narrative Authority, Sheikh Shakhboot Bin Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of State, and a number of senior officials, ambassadors, members of the award jury and foreign dignitaries.
The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity is an annual independent and international award recognising individuals or entities across the world who lead by example, collaborating selflessly and tirelessly to bridge divides and create real human connection, often at great personal sacrifice.