Bremen Peace Award Goes to Maori Activist Pauline Tangiora
Rongomaiwahine kuia Pauline Tangiora receives prestigious international peace award
International Bremen Peace Award 2017 goes to an Anti-Mafia Initiative, a Maori activist and a Congolese opponent of war
The winners of the 8th International Bremen Peace Award from the schwelle Foundation have now been chosen. The award includes a total prize money of 15.000 Euros and is shared equally this year by an Anti-Mafia Initiative from southern Italy, an indigenous environmental and peace activist from New Zealand, and a former Congolese child soldier who became a peace worker. The award will be presented on the 17th November in the Bremen Town Hall. The patron of the event is Bremen’s mayor Karoline Linnert.
The Sicilian network “Addiopizzo” (Goodbye to Protection Money) has been honoured as the “Encouraging Initiative”. Addiopizzo is a civil society association comprising more than a thousand Sicilian shops which stand up in protest against the protection money demands of the Sicilian Mafia, and they make this public in the style of a Fair Trade label. In this way, customers can specifically support these shops with their purchases. The network also coordinates approximately 40 volunteers who pay regular visits to schools where they sensitize children and teenagers early on to the social problems created by the criminal actions of the Mafia. The work carried out by Addiopizzo serves as a wake-up call in many areas of Sicilian society; for the principle of solidarity which Addiopizzo embodies makes it very clear that there are alternatives to the common practice of supporting mafia structures because of the fear of violence. For the first time, the donors who support the work of the schwelle Foundation were able to decide on the recipient of the award for the “Encouraging Initiative”.
A further award is presented to Pauline Tangiora, the peace and environmental activist from New Zealand. As a member of the Maori, she connects the tribal knowledge of her ancestors and the message of protecting and preserving the planet. She repeatedly calls for a change in our way of thinking by explaining the holistic view of the Maori at national and international conferences. At the same time, she persistently campaigns for the rights of indigenous peoples – with success. In November 2016, the Crown apologised to the Maori for stealing their land and destroying their culture. They also signed a treaty ensuring compensation payments and social support – 30 years after Pauline Tangiore had initiated such a campaign. This event is symbolic as it shows that colonial guilt does not have to be swept silently under the carpet of history as was, for a long time, the case in Germany with regard to the Herero and Nama in Namibia. Laying a claim to responsibility is a chance; showing responsibility a step towards more justice.
Junior Nzita, the Congolese peace worker and voluntary UN ambassador, is also the recipient of a prize. He campaigns passionately and with great commitment against the cruel practice of making children go to war. At the age of 12, he was himself kidnapped from his boarding school and was mercilessly subjected to the command structure of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL) for ten years until being demobilised in 2006. Despite suffering severe traumas, he managed to complete his Higher School Certificate and train as a social worker. He describes his war experiences in his book “If I could tell about my life as a child soldier”, which has since been published in eight languages. The proceeds go to supporting an aid organisation he himself founded called Paix pour L´Enfance (Peace for Children). It takes care of former child soldiers and offers them the opportunity to attend school or do an agricultural training.
About the International Bremen Peace Award
The International Bremen Peace Award has been presented every two years since 2003. The schwelle Foundation honours people and organizations whose work is a role-model for reconciliation, human rights, overcoming racism, for social justice, future-oriented and sustainable way of dealing with nature, as well as intercultural and interreligious understanding and communication.
About the schwelle Foundation
The Bremen schwelle Foundation was founded in 1979 by the Bremen stevedore company businessman Dirk Heinrichs and his wife Ruth-Christa. In 1994 Wiebke and Reinhard Jung became co-sponsors. The Foundation presently supports projects in southeastern Europe, East and Central Africa, Israel and Palestine, as well as in Bremen.