Guatemalan Human Rights Campaigner Wins 29th Niwano Peace Prize
The Niwano Peace Prize International Selection Committee has decided to award the 29th Niwano Peace Prize to Ms. Rosalina Tuyuc Velásquez, a human rights activist and political leader in Guatemala. The presentation ceremony will take place on May 10 in Tokyo. In addition to an award certificate, Ms. Velásquez will receive a medal and twenty million yen.
This is the first time that a practitioner of an indigenous religious tradition (Mayan) will receive the prize. Ms. Velásquez was selected for her extraordinary and unflagging work for peace, 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 strength of their spiritual beliefs in their approaches to peace, and their determination to achieve it.
Ms. Velásquez was born in San Juan Comalapa, in the Chimaltenango department of Guatemala, and lives and works in Guatemala. She came from a very poor, religious, agricultural family. Mayan religion, one of the world's ancient spiritual traditions, has always guided her, and since her youth she also has been part of the Christian movement.
For many decades, Guatemala suffered extraordinary violence and internal strife. The indigenous population was systematically excluded from mainstream society, and its traditional faith wisdom was ignored. Women were the victims of many forms of violence (including sexual and economic), but have been a source of strength and resilience.
In 1988 Ms. Velásquez founded the National Association of Guatemalan Widows (CONAVIGUA), now a leading Guatemalan human rights organization, which has pioneered a new form of peaceful, active resistance. After Guatemala's Peace Agreements were signed in 1996, CONAVIGUA focused on compliance with the agreed terms and their implementation, especially in relation to truth and reparations for victims, pressing for women's dignity and development of rural communities. She has served in many posts, in Guatemala and the region, including as a congresswoman in the National Congress, and a magistrate in the first Court of Conscience of the Women of Guatemala. She continues to stand out as an active civic and political leader, respected in Guatemala and throughout Latin America.
[back to News Archive]