Guatemalan Human Rights Activist Receives 29th Niwano Peace Prize
The Niwano Peace Foundation presented the 29th Niwano Peace Prize on May 10 to Ms. Rosalina Tuyuc Velásquez, a human rights activist and political leader in Guatemala. It was the first time for a practitioner of an indigenous religious tradition (in her case, Mayan) to receive the prize. Ms. Velásquez was honored for her unflagging work, which has exemplified the great potential and wisdom of indigenous peoples in marking paths to peace. She also has highlighted the critical role of women's work for peace.
The presentation took place at the International House of Japan in Tokyo. Some 150 people attended, including Mr. Yasutaka Moriguchi, Japan's deputy minister of education, culture, sports, science, and technology; H. E. Mr. Byron René Escobedo Menéndez, Guatemala's ambassador to Japan; and Rev. Masanori Yoshimura, chairman of the board of the Japan Association of Religious Organizations.
Following a moment of silent prayer for peace by all the participants, Ms. Katherine Marshall, chair of the Niwano Peace Prize Committee, reported on the process for selecting the recipient.
In addition to an award certificate, Ms. Velásquez received a medal and 20 million yen from the honorary president of the Niwano Peace Foundation, Rev. Nichiko Niwano. Rev. Niwano then delivered a commemorative address, followed by congratulatory speeches by three guests.
In her acceptance address, Ms. Velásquez said humanity faces great uncertainty, on local, national, and global levels. Blaming selfishness and greed for human discord, she explained the Mayan vision of the cosmos, according to which "harmony means being at peace with yourself and with other human beings, with Mother Earth, animals, plants, and every kind of energy that comes from the cosmos. . . . The purpose of existence is maintaining balance and harmony."
She added, "My Mayan ancestors and other indigenous peoples of the world tell us that a new era will come from a stricter study of the cosmos and its energies and from societies and their behavior. This new era is tied to a new cycle of time that marks the Mayan calendar. In the Western calendar it will start on December 21 of this year. It is a new era that also should begin with the understanding of human destiny. That destiny is a fulfilled life; people and societies acting ethically."
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