The 65th Ramon Magsaysay Awards, sometimes referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Asia,” recognized four outstanding individuals for their transformative leadership and social contributions at a ceremony in Manila on November 11. As part of the debates organized for the occasion, the revered Korean Dharma Master and Buddhist activist, Venerable Pomnyun Sunim (법륜스님), was invited to deliver the opening speech of this prestigious event.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award is an annual award established to recognize and honor individuals in Asia who have distinguished themselves in their respective fields and served others with generosity and courage, without expectation of recognition. Named after Ramon Magsaysay, the seventh president of the Philippines, the award was established in 1957 by the trustees of the New York-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund in cooperation with the Philippine government. Since its inception, the prize has been awarded to more than 300 remarkable individuals and organizations.
The four recipients of this year's awards are:
Miriam Coronel-Ferrer of the Philippines, who played a key role in resolving war conflicts and resisting his country's martial rule. She helped draft the country's first national action plan on women, peace and security, which was officially adopted in 2010. She co-founded the Southeast Asian Women's Peace Mediators in 2020, providing a safe space for dialogue for women in the Philippines. , as well as countries like Afghanistan and Myanmar. Coronel-Ferrer is recognized for her “unwavering belief in the transformative power of nonviolent strategies in peacebuilding.”
Dr Ravi Kannan R. of India, who helped develop the non-profit Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Center (CCHRC) into a comprehensive treatment center. Under the leadership of Dr. Kannan, CCHRC aims to become a state-of-the-art cancer center where no patient, regardless of their background or status, will be denied appropriate cancer treatment. Dr. Kannan was selected for this year's award because of his strong dedication to his medical profession and his focus on what medicine is really about: health-promoting, person-centered treatment. .
Eugenio Lemos from Timor-Leste, an agricultural expert who has helped the Timorese community adopt new ways of appreciating agriculture and nature conservation by promoting organic farming and modern, sustainable agrosystems. In 2001, Lemos established Permakultura Timor-Lorosa'e (Permatil), which hosts training camps for youth on water and natural resource management, agriculture, aquaculture and agroforestry.
Korvi Rakshand of Bangladesh, founder of the non-profit JAAGO Foundation, which has provided free government-recognized English education to more than 30 students throughout Bangladesh. Rakshand is recognized for his remarkable work in developing inclusive education for underprivileged children.
In his opening address on Saturday, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, himself a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Prize for Peace and International Understanding in 2002, for his compassionate action to alleviate the human cost of the division of North and South Korea, and for his work for reconciliation and reunification of the Korean Peninsula, offered his deep respect and congratulations to this year's four winners, and shared powerful and moving insights about the power and obligation of ordinary people to manifest the conditions of a peaceful and united world:
Click here for the livestream of the awards ceremony
For 65 years since 1958, the (Ramon Magsaysay Prize) The foundation has strived to identify the courage of countless heroes who have sacrificed for peace, human rights, democracy and the well-being of ordinary citizens across Asia. For us Asians, they became symbols of hope and courage that transcended national boundaries.
Dear guests and fellow citizens of the world who are watching us online right now, for the past 30 years, I have supported and worked side by side with the untouchables in India, refugees in Afghanistan, indigenous people and Muslims in Mindanao in the Philippines. , Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and refugees from North Korea. And beyond the absolute desolation and poverty that strike these peoples of Asia, I realized that there have always been tensions and conflicts. And without resolving these conflicts, we cannot maintain humanitarian aid, guarantee human rights or guarantee children's education, which forms the foundation of their dreams for the future.
Today we are faced with an increasingly strong and icy wind of war. Violence and intimidation based on the principle of might is omnipresent. Conflict based on race, ethnicity, territory and religion ravages homes and communities around the world. As we speak, we see people being killed in communities devastated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Hamas' attack on Israel, and Israel's indiscriminate attacks and total quarantine of Gaza. Israel.
During the two world wars of the first half of the XNUMXth century, we experienced incomparable losses of tens of millions of people and the complete destruction of societies, which led us to realize our own inhumanity towards each other. and lead to international conflict. agreement on peace, security, human rights and humanitarianism.
Unfortunately, in less than a century, we are back here, indulging in our inhumanity, having forgotten our painful lessons. The world is once again divided into “us versus them”» and justify military conflicts.
We demonize others by pretending that we are right and you are wrong. We justify disproportionate vengeance by calling ourselves victims. We have desecrated the UN Charter for Peace and the Security Council, established to guarantee peace throughout the world, is being used to reject the resolution approved by the majority of member states. We must immediately stop the slaughter of innocents and the destruction of our communities and this Earth.
The only and most urgent solution is peace. Peace is not just the simple absence of war and violence, but a state of existence free from conflict and discrimination. And how can such peace be achieved?
First of all, stop the war immediately. War is violence. Nothing can justify the killing of civilians and children. There is no just war in this world. War can only be tragic and criminal. Declare an immediate armistice to end the massacres of civilians and allow humanitarian aid to flow fully.
Second, start the dialogue for peace. Such dialogue begins with mutual respect and understanding. Peace cannot be achieved by force alone. Unilateral and arbitrary demands only lead to the destruction of all. Recognize that we have profound differences in ideology and values. Dialogue for peace can only begin on this basis of such difficult mutual recognition.
Third, world citizens must stand up for peace. Peace can only be achieved through the courageous actions of ordinary people. I recently visited the United States and met with various officials, from the White House to Congress and the government. I briefed them on the growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and advocated for food and medical support for the 25 million people suffering in North Korea. Most officials I met were pessimistic about the potential for peace on the Korean Peninsula. But no amount of pessimism will stop me. I live on this peninsula, with 75 million South Koreans and North Koreans. War cannot be allowed to happen again on this earth. Some warn us that the war cannot be stopped, even if we unite.
There are those who say it is too late. But we can't give up. Just as dawn always breaks after a long night, we can witness peace if we persevere. Whatever sacrifices are required, peace is worth it because it is always the best choice. Peace will only come if we act. We must be the prime movers of peace.
Today'In the world where even institutions like the UN have lost their power to act, we, the citizens of the world, hold the only remaining force to fight for peace. We must combine our voices from all corners of the world. Every day, courageous voices that transcend the boundaries of nation states, religions and ideologies, opposing war and calling for peace, are the only power capable of stopping the winds of war and achieving peace. peace. And, here and now, let us all take this bold step toward peace.
And finally, I must mention once again the four recipients of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Award. Former President Ramon Magsaysay once said: “Guns alone are not the solution. We must give young people hope for better housing, better clothing and better food. And if we do that, the radicals will disappear.” And, indeed, the four recipients are the true heroes of today, you have given young people hope for better food, better health, better education and better peace, as the former president mentioned. And may their contributions continue to shine brighter for the future of the 4,7 billion people living in Asia.
Once again, I express my deepest respect and gratitude to the Ramon Magsaysay Prize Foundation for giving me this honored opportunity to speak today. May all living beings be happy and at peace. THANKS.
Fri. Pomnyun Sunim is a revered Korean teacher, author, and social activist. He has founded numerous organizations, initiatives and projects around the world, including: JTS Korea, an international humanitarian aid organization working to eradicate poverty and hunger; Jungto Society, a voluntary community based on the teachings of the Buddha and dedicated to solving modern social problems that lead to suffering; Ecobuddha, an organization focused on environmental ethics and sustainable living based on the teachings of the Buddha; and Good Friends, which promotes reconciliation and cooperation between North and South Korea and provides humanitarian aid to North Koreans. Fri. Pomnyun Sunim also works closely with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).
In October 2020, the Niwano Peace Foundation in Japan presented the 37th Niwano Peace Prize to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim in recognition of his international humanitarian work, his intensive environmental and social activism, and his tireless efforts to build trust and goodwill between communities of different faiths and cultures, towards the goal of world peace .*
* Buddhist monk Ven. Pomnyun Sunim receives the 37th Niwano Peace Prize (BDG)