Mumbai (AsiaNews) – In a world where “the rights of women, children and those who cannot defend themselves” are denied, it is people like Nadia [Murad] who “can explain their pain to a wider global audience”. This is what Abraham Mathai, president of the Harmony Foundation, told AsiaNews, explaining the reasons that led the institution to bestow the Mother Teresa Award 2018 to the Yazidi activist Nadia Murad and to the Congolese physician Denis Mukwege, who had both recently been awarded the Nobel peace prize . “We congratulate them – adds Mathai – both for the Nobel Prize and for the Mother Teresa Award”.
The award is in its 14th edition and is dedicated to the memory of the saint of Calcutta. The ceremony took place yesterday in Mumbai, where Nadia Murad told her own story in person and traced the violence suffered in the months in which he lived as a sexual slave of the Islamic State (IS, ex Isis). Dr. Mukwege wsa unable to attend due to prior commitment.
The Harmony Foundation president explained in his opening address to the evening, the fight against “sexual abuse and violations against women and children” as a priority . The aim is to launch a “mass awareness campaign” against abuses, a theme of current relevance also in India where rape ( according to UN sources) is a serious problem “on a national scale”.
Interviewed by AsiaNews on the sidelines of the event, Abraham Mathai recalls the “courageous struggle” of Murad against the abuses and violations perpetrated by the jihadists of the Islamic State. He also praises the work of the Congolese physician Mukwege in “reconstruction of rape victims”. The theme chosen for the 2018 edition of the “Celebrate her, protect her, empower her” award is well suited to the two winners “. The foundation, concludes the president and co-founder, wants a world “that protects and empowers every girl” through a “change of mentality” that is “necessary” today:
Addressing the audience in the Kurdish language, Nadia Murad traced the events of August 3, 2014, when her family (in all 20 members) ended up “in the hands of Isis” who had “invaded my village, Kocho, in the region of Sinjar. ” “We were subjected to every kind of torture – she continues – fear, terror, rape, sexual slavery and other horrible and unimaginable acts”.
“They sold me eight times – she adds – to eight people of eight different nationalities”. Like her, even girls aged 10 and under suffered the same fate, victims of sexual violence and slavery, while “the Iraqi government and the international community remained silent and did very little to help us”.
Finally, Murad thanked the government of the autonomous Kurdish region for its essential contribution to her liberation and she concluded by underlining that “this award Mother Teresa speaks to the grief of thousands of people who are still being kidnapped” and who must be freed and helped on the path of recovery.
The Harmony Foundation was founded in October 2005 by Dr. Abraham Mathai to establish communal and social harmony between various communities, castes and work towards the benefit of all the communities without any discrimination as to religion, caste, creed, gender or region. The raison d’etre of this foundation was necessitated by the fact that we are presently living in a very turbulent period in the history of mankind wherein many wicked acts are being perpetrated under the guise of political, economic, religious reasons which have long term implications on the peaceful co-existence of human society.
The award has been conferred on several Nobel laureates including the UNHCR, Malala Yousafzai, the Dalai Lama, Medecins Sans Frontieres, India’s Priyanka Chopra, among many others. . Last year he was awarded Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the Indian Salesian kidnapped in Yemen in 2016 and released after more than a year of imprisonment.