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Human Fraternity: 2024 Zayed Award goes to Chilean ‘mother of detainees’ nun

The 2024 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity has been given to Sister Nelly León Correa, a Chilean nun working with prisoners; Sir Magdi Yacoub, an Egyptian cardiothoracic surgeon; and, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, two leading Indonesian Islamic organizations.

By Alessandro Di Bussolo – Abu Dhabi

On Friday, in Abu Dhabi, the winners of the fifth edition of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity were announced, which recognizes contributions of individuals and organizations to humanity's progress and peaceful coexistence.

The Award celebrates the Document on Human Fraternity, signed on February 4, 2019, by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.

Award winners were Sister Nelly León Correa, Sir Magdi Yacoub, and two Indonesian Islamic organizations: Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

The announcement was made on Friday morning in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, during a press conference by the award's Secretary-General, Egyptian judge Mohamed Abdelsalam.

The three winners, each receiving a prize of one million dollars to enhance their activities, were selected by an independent panel of judges for their exceptional efforts to address complex social challenges and promote peaceful coexistence and solidarity among humanity at both the international and grassroots levels.

They will receive the award on February 5, during a ceremony at the Founder's Memorial in Abu Dhabi.

Chilean nun called ‘mother of detainees’

Known as "Mother Nelly," Sister Nelly León Correa is president and co-founder of the “Mujer Levántate” Foundation, and has spent more than 25 years assisting detained women, offering them support and training during their detention period and helping them reintegrate into society once released from prison.

Committed to the principles of human fraternity, the foundation, according to the award's rationale, “brings hope to those in prison and healing to those who have just been released.”

Nearly 94 percent of the program's participants remain free of convictions two years after leaving prison.

For her, the situation of detained women is “a horrendous drama that society has failed to see or does not want to see,” and for this, she is grateful that the Zayed Award offers visibility to women deprived of freedom.

The nun hopes this award will encourage "citizens, politicians, and opinion leaders to feel responsible and committed to contributing to the reintegration of women, to their dignity, their dreams, hopes, and challenges, working together with the State of Chile."

Sister Nelly's Foundation assists an average of 250 women a year through its various programs, directly impacting the living conditions of 700 children.

"This award will allow us to double and even triple this number, and this makes us enormously happy," the award winner stated emotionally.

(R-L):  Sister Nelly Leon Correa, Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Ulil Abshar-Abdalla of Nahdlatul Ulama, Irina Bokova, and Syafiq A. Mughni of the Indonesian Muhammadiyah
(R-L): Sister Nelly Leon Correa, Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Ulil Abshar-Abdalla of Nahdlatul Ulama, Irina Bokova, and Syafiq A. Mughni of the Indonesian Muhammadiyah

Indonesian Islamic organizations

Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the largest Indonesian Islamic organizations with over 190 million members, were awarded the Zayed Award “for their immeasurable humanitarian and peace-building efforts.”

Through the creation of educational institutions, hospitals, and poverty reduction projects, both organizations have improved the lives of many Indonesians and vulnerable populations around the world.

Egyptian surgeon

Sir Magdi Yacoub, a world-renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and professor, was honored for his dedication to saving the lives of the needy, including vulnerable populations.

Founder of the Magdi Yacoub Heart Foundation in Egypt and the Chain of Hope charity in the UK, Dr. Yacoub has helped save thousands of lives, especially those of children.

He has opened cardiological centers in Ethiopia and Mozambique and currently runs a center in Kigali, Rwanda.

His pioneering surgical techniques have revolutionized heart transplantation, and he has received numerous accolades, including a British knighthood, the Grand Order of the Nile, and the Queen Elizabeth II Order of Merit.

Exemplars of human fraternity

The Secretary-General of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, commented that the three awardees “are a true example of the values of the Document on Human Fraternity.” They have supported this goal “by acting as beacons of hope in their communities.”

Each of the awardees, he added, “has upheld the noble vision of a more peaceful world, and we will ensure that this recognition contributes to accelerating their efforts in their respective fields.”

Promoting human dignity

One of the judges for the 2024 Award, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, sub-dean of the College of Cardinals and prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, speaking to Vatican News, said he was impressed by the high number of nominations submitted from all over the world.

“It is hopeful that there are so many people and associations committed to promoting human dignity,” he said, “and those we have chosen all operate with the impulse that comes to them from the presence of God in the world and in people.”

Five years after the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity, the Cardinal recognized that steps forward in fraternity and dialogue have been made, but that too many “countries seek in war the solution to tensions between them, with the risk of leading the world towards self-destruction.”

Celebrating human fraternity

The award announcement was made, as every year since its first edition in 2020, on the eve of the International Day of Human Fraternity, February 4, established by the United Nations to celebrate the historic signing of the Document on Human Fraternity, in 2019 in Abu Dhabi, by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb.

The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity is an independent annual international award given to individuals and organizations from any background, anywhere in the world, working selflessly and tirelessly beyond differences to promote the timeless values of solidarity, integrity, fairness, and optimism, and creating progress towards peaceful coexistence.

The award is named after the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the United Arab Emirates, known for his humanitarian commitment and dedication in helping people, regardless of their origin or where they are in the world.

The award ceremony on February 5, at 7 pm (4 pm in Italy), will be broadcast by local television channels and also by the international YouTube channel of Vatican News.

Past recipients

Since the award was established, leaders, activists, and humanitarian organizations from around the world have been honored, including: Pope Francis and the Grand Imam Al-Tayeb (honorary recipients) in 2019.

In 2021, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and anti-extremism activist Latifa Ibn Ziaten; in 2022, His Majesty Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and his wife, Queen Rania Al Abdullah, with the Haitian humanitarian organization Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty (Fokal).

And finally, in 2023, the Community of Sant'Egidio and Kenyan peacebuilder Shamsa Abubakar Fadhil.

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02 February 2024, 09:21