Tokyo, 27 July 2017 – In a ceremony among his professional peers, long-time friends, and his supportive wife, The Right Rev. Dr. Bishop Munib Younan receives the Niwano Peace Prize today for his work toward interreligious dialogue among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Jerusalem and worldwide. Bishop Younan is the 34th recipient of the distinguished Niwano Peace Prize.
The prize comes at a time when Muslims and Israeli security clash daily in an increasingly tense period in his homeland. Before leaving to accept the prize for his work in this very context, Bishop Younan, together with the heads of churches in the Holy Land, released a statement in support of a peaceful resolution that honors the historic status quo of Holy sites in Jerusalem.
Each year The Niwano Peace Foundation (NPF) of Japan recognizes an individual or organization that has dedicated their service and scholarship to promoting peaceful cooperation among religions particularly in places of difficulty.
With gratitude, Bishop Younan accepted the prize from the Honorary NPF President The Rev. Nichiko Niwano.
The esteemed Lutheran Bishop was selected by the NPF International Committee for his development of and involvement in organizations that foster interfaith dialogue among leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths.
“In a world characterized by leaders who seek to emphasize difference and hatred, Bishop Younan has consistently strived for the opposite. His work emphasizes peace over power and unity over monotheistic domination,” the NPF International Committee wrote.
Bishop Younan is a founding member of several Middle East interfaith groups, Council for Religious Institutions in the Holy Land (CRIHL), The Jonah Group, Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious Studies, and is currently serving two other interfaith groups, The Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, and The Prize Giving Committee of the Jordanian World Interfaith Harmony Week.
One of the practical contributions to peace established by CRIHL is to monitor textbooks in the schools, making sure that the value of coexistence is printed and ensuring that each religion is teaching the basic tenets of the other religions. The Council is in constant dialogue with the Ministry of Education to create a more balanced curriculum that reflects Jerusalem as a place for three religions, not just Judaism.
Bishop Younan stresses the importance of balanced curriculum development in education, “If you show me the curricula, I will tell you what Japan you will have in 10 years.”
The former Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President, Bishop Younan thanked LWF for the international platform that the 145-member churches of LWF provided for the mission of interreligious dialogue toward peace in the Middle East and abroad.
In his acceptance address today Bishop Younan unpacks how the religious and the political intersect and the danger of religious extremism used for self-serving political interests.
“Today, leaders within faith traditions must confront the extremists in their midst. We do this through a witness of robust moderation, rejecting that extremism is somehow the measure of faithfulness,” Bishop Younan told guests.
Finally, he reflects on his faith as a driving force in his interreligious work, “As a Lutheran Christian, my hope is anchored in the hope of God’s coming reconciliation of all things. This hope is present today, both for our neighbors and for our global ecology and environment. This hope does not separate us from our neighbors but calls us into ever greater concern for their well-being. From this foundation, we embrace rather than exclude, standing for common values of justice, peace, equality, living together, and accepting the other.”
Former Niwano Recipients: Brazilian Liberation Activist and Catholic Archbishop Helder P. Camara 1983, World Council of Churches General Secretary Philip Potter 1986, Swiss Catholic priest and theologian, Prof. Dr. Hans Küng 2005, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal 2008, LWF General Secretary Bishop Gunner Stalsett 2013, Nigerian Pastor and Activist The Rev. Esther Abimiku Ibanga 2015.