Dutch Ambassador Rudolf Bekink honored two champions of tolerance and human rights during the inaugural Anne Frank Awards in the Member’s Room of the Library of Congress on Sept. 17.
Ambassador Bekink presented the Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance to Rabbi David Saperstein for his work confronting intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism, and discrimination while upholding freedom and equal rights. During his more than 30 years at the helm of the Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism, Rabbi Saperstein has headed several national religious coalitions, including the Coalition to Protect Religious Liberty. He was recently nominated by President Obama to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
Ambassador Bekink presented the Anne Frank Award to Rabbi Saperstein after noting that “in the current world, religious tolerance is more important than ever. As a strong fighter for more interfaith understanding, Rabbi Saperstein deserves this award like no one else.”
Yvonne Simons of the Anne Frank Center USA added that “Saperstein embodies the hope and determination we need to see in our leaders.” Saperstein said he was “deeply humbled and honored” to receive the award. In his acceptance speech, Saperstein noted the enduring legacy of Anne Frank’s diary. “Still, we have to remember that Anne Frank’s dream will not happen by itself. Only if good people, moral people, work together can we turn it into a reality. We have to go forward with courage if we want to be the shapers of a better future.”
He also presented a second award, Special Recognition for Religious Tolerance and Reconciliation, to the Rev. Canon Andrew White for his commitment to enhance religious tolerance and reconciliation in Iraq and the Middle East. Canon White, honored for his commitment to enhancing religious tolerance and reconciliation in Iraq and the Middle East through the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, is chaplain of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, the only remaining Anglican church in Iraq. He was visibly touched as he approached the stage. “I can honestly say this is the most moving award I have ever received,” he said. “It is stories like Anne Frank’s that help drive me further.”
When moderator Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom asked him how he overcame the fear of being targeted as a Christian in Iraq, Canon responded: “Working for peace is never easy, but that is not a reason for me to just give up. Even when there’s no love being showed to us, we have to give people our love. Even if there is evil coming our way, we cannot respond with evil.”
The ceremony was opened by Rep. Bill Huizenga, co-chair of the Congressional Dutch Caucus, who was glad to “celebrate the 400-year relationship between the Netherlands and the U.S., and try to build on it.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, also co-chair of the Congressional Dutch Caucus, added that the values of Anne Frank are shared by both countries. “Together we have to make sure her values are upheld, as we cannot let the hope of Anne Frank vanish.”
Rep. Trent Franks, chair of the International Religious Freedom Caucus, called religious freedom “the cornerstone of true liberty.”
Rep. Frank Wolf, co-chair of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East, built a strong case for freedom of religion, calling for more interfaith cooperation in a time when “we seem to lose our voice in the debate.”
The Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance is part of the Royal Netherlands Embassy’s “Holland on the Hill” campaign, a renewed effort to strengthen the ties between the Netherlands and the United States and highlight the values both countries share with each other. See more photos from the ceremony, as well as the dinner that preceded it.
Click the link below to read Maureen Fiedler’s article about Canon White in the National Catholic Reporter.
(Washington, D.C.) — Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, will receive the inaugural 2014 Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance. Rabbi Saperstein is being honored for his work to confront intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism, and discrimination while upholding freedom and equal rights. For 40 years, Rabbi Saperstein has led the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and has headed several national religious coalitions which have worked to both protect and promote religious freedom, interfaith dialogues and responses to discrimination. In 1999, Rabbi Saperstein was elected as the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, created by a unanimous vote of Congress. Most recently, he was nominated by President Obama to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
A second award, Special Recognition for Religious Tolerance and Reconciliation, will also be awarded to the Rev. Canon Andrew White for his commitment to enhance religious tolerance and reconciliation in Iraq and the Middle East. Rev. Canon White is the president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.
Rabbi Saperstein will give remarks at the award ceremony, after which Katrina Lantos Swett of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice will moderate a ‘Conversation on Individual Responsibility in Confronting Intolerance’ with both the awardees. In advance of the Washington DC Premiere, The Thomas Circle Singers will perform selections from “Annelies,” the first major choral interpretation of The Diary of Anne Frank. To also mark this occasion, the Library of Congress will host a small exhibit dedicated to Anne Frank including artifacts from the Frank family.
An advisory committee, consisting of Congressional Dutch Caucus members and Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Michael Abramowitz, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Katrina Lantos Swett, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice; Ronald Leopold, Anne Frank House Amsterdam; Yvonne Simons, Anne Frank Center USA; and Ambassador Rudolf Bekink, Royal Netherlands Embassy evaluated several individuals and organizations for the inaugural Anne Frank Award. The award is a continuation of the Embassy’s work to honor the legacy of Anne Frank.
Members of the media should RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 16, 2014 to attend the ceremony.
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WHO: The Royal Netherlands Embassy; the Congressional Dutch Caucus; the Anne Frank Center USA; the Anne Frank House Amsterdam; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
WHAT: Inaugural Presentation of the 2014 Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance to Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Special Recognition to Rev. Canon Andrew White of St. George’s Church (Baghdad) and the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East
WHERE: Member’s Room of the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20540
WHEN: September 17, 2014, 3-5 p.m.
(SOMERVILLE, Maine)—The Rev. Canon Dr. Andrew White, president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, will make two public appearances in Washington, D.C., and Maryland on Sept. 14 as part of a visit to the East Coast of the United States.
Canon White will be discussing the current situation in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, specifically addressing the plight of Christians and other religious minorities during the current crisis.
The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) is providing humanitarian assistance and relief efforts in Kurdistan, as well as continuing its regular relief efforts in Baghdad. In addition, White has made several trips to Israel in recent weeks, working toward reconciliation efforts and providing humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Canon White will attend a number of private and public events while in the United States. Public appearances include talks at three services at All Saints Church in Chevy Chase, Md., starting at 8 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 14, and a question and answer session at Washington’s Church of the Advent beginning at 5 p.m. that evening.
Canon White, who is chaplain of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, first visited Iraq in 1998 at the invitation of then Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. White was instrumental in reopening St. George’s Church (Iraq’s only Anglican Church) in 2003. Since then St. George’s has transitioned from a church attended primarily by expatriates and Western military and diplomatic personnel, to a true Iraqi church attended by several hundred Iraqi Christians. Under White’s direction, FRRME and St. George’s run a medical and dental clinic providing free healthcare to persons of all faiths and conduct relief efforts touching the lives of thousands of people in Baghdad. St. George’s also runs a Kindergarten in Baghdad. Since the current crisis began, FRRME has expanded its work in northern Iraq and Kurdistan, providing funds and direct aid in the form of bread and water, hot meals, clothing, bedding, medicine, wheelchairs and toys for children to thousands of displaced persons, including Christians, Muslims, Yazidis and other religious minorities.
The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East is a UK-registered charity. The American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to promote and foster reconciliation; provide support to Christian churches in the Middle East, particularly St. George’s Baghdad; provide relief efforts; advance the rights of women, children and religious minorities; and to seek an end to sectarian violence in the region.
For more information or to schedule a media interview, contact Mr. Brian Murphy at 301-951-8670 or 240-413-0167 (cell), or email him at email@example.com.
FRRME continues to provide relief for the displaced Christians, Shabak, Yazidi, and Muslims in northern Iraq. We [have] helped with the needs of many refugee camps. The needs of the camps range from water, ice and water coolers, to mattresses, blankets and pillows. Our journey started at 7 a.m., when we delivered 3,000 [loaves] of bread to “Mazar Mart Shamoni,” which hosts 2,650 displaced people, 650 of [whom] are children. The bread was served during the breakfast meal and again during dinner.
Then, we left for Al-Hikma School, where 650 displaced people have been living in classrooms for the past week. We delivered 150 kg of chicken, 60 dozen eggs, and 50 kg of potatoes and onions that were cooked and served during lunch. As we were leaving the school, we took a couple of pictures to document the misery of the people so our donors and supporters could see what the people have been going through. Suddenly, a lady cried, “Stop taking pictures. We used to live with dignity in our houses that look like palaces. But we were forced to leave because we feared the brutality of ISIS”. We assured her that the pictures are going to be used for fund-raising purposes. We really felt bad and then said sorry to her, and she excused us when we showed her the pictures; she knew we didn’t mean to demean her or the situation.
We were then contacted by Father Emanuel, who is managing Mazar Mart Shamoni. He asked us to get air [conditioners] that are needed to cool the tents, in which the displaced families were living; the air [conditioners] were for about 80 families. So we moved to the old part of Erbil where home appliances are sold to get the [A/Cs]. After finding a reliable type of cooler and paying for it, we bought 100 mattresses, 100 pillows, and 100 blankets to be provided for a new shelter that has been opened recently for Christian refugees from Mosul, in which about 70 families were living.
Around noon we received a call from the carpenter who had been making cradles for about 40 families, letting us know that they were ready. The cradles were provided for the kids from the Shabak minority in a distant camp. We took the cradles, and we headed to the camp which was 30 minutes away. As we moved, it became very windy and rained heavily for around five minutes. It was not a big deal for us. However, when we got to the camp, we were shocked by the impact the short storm had caused to the camp. The camp is located in an open, dusty area and consists of tents that are poorly supported. So when the short storm occurred, the tents were blown away, and some of them fall on the elderly and the children and caused the death of a woman, leaving all her kids behind. The refugees rushed to rescue whoever was impacted and took them to a safer place. Some of the refugees had arrived recently to the camp, so they were placed in shelters that were open [at the top], so when the storm occurred, their stuff got wet and their food got spoiled.
There are so many medical problems, and apparently, because they are living in the desert where there is no electricity, the canned food they are getting is spoiled. So many people came to us complaining of diarrhea, and vomiting. They said, “Even the food they get us is spoiled, Doctor. This is not a life.” The situation is devastating, and [we] can’t even put into words what we saw. People are dying, people are suffering, and we didn’t see any major help provided by the UN as we heard. The tents were UN-provided, but after the rain… Can’t even thank them for [that].
It was a really hard day, hearing that Amo [an elderly man who needed a wheelchair] died, this young lady died [when the tent fell on her], and seeing so much suffering. However, we were happy that we had some relief for them. We distributed the cradles and provided bags of food for more than 300 families. What made our day were the smiles that were drawn on the faces of the disabled people when we gave them the wheelchairs. One of the older disabled [persons who] never left his tent before we saw as we were leaving the camp, sitting on his new wheelchair in the main area of the camp with some friends enjoying a conversation.
We ended our day by delivering more bread for about 2,000 families for dinner. Also, making more plans for the day after.
There are so many things needed, and people are getting tired of no one doing anything. I have heard that there is so [much] aid coming in to the north, but I haven’t seen any. I have seen camps, and their misery. I have seen people dying. I have seen women who are due, and can’t even go check. I have seen everything bad, but not much good to equal it. I am hoping that more aid will come in the coming weeks. I’ll keep helping as much as I can meanwhile. I’ll keep providing for all the Christians and all the other religious minorities: Shabak, Yazidis, Ifailies, and Shia Muslims. As the representative and the Director of Operations for the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, I WON’T STOP UNTIL THE LAST DISPLACED FAMILY IN ANY OF THE CAMPS IN THE NORTH OF IRAQ IS EITHER BACK TO THEIR HOME, OR IN A BETTER PLACE. THAT IS MY PROMISE.
SOMERVILLE, ME—FRRME staff are providing direct humanitarian aid to refugees in Kurdistan, including food and water, hot meals and more.
Thanks to emergency funding approved by the boards in the UK and the U.S., FRRME has been active in recent days in Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled in order to escape ISIS.
Aid is being provided to Christians and Shi’a Muslims who have poured into Kurdistan. Initially, bare essentials were delivered to refugees in settlement camps, where FRRME staff were quickly surrounded by people desperate for food and water. FRRME coordinated efforts with the largest Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil to provide fresh bread and water to some 5,000 families being hosted by the church and later began providing three hot meals a day for nearly 15,000 refugees at the church.
FRRME has also provided humanitarian relief to Muslim refugees in the camps and in the streets of Erbil, including food and essential supplies.
In addition to its work in the north, FRRME continues to provide aid to thousands in Baghdad, including the needy and disabled children. St. George’s Church in Baghdad operates a medical and dental clinic that provides healthcare free of charge to people of all faiths, and food staples are provided to needy families on a weekly basis.
WASHINGTON, DC—FRRME America Board member Nina Shea published a piece in the New Republic Online on Aug. 6 that clearly outlines the danger that ISIS represents to religious minorities in Iraq, as well as some steps that should be taken.
SOMERVILLE, ME—In a July 16 joint meeting of FRRME America’s Crisis Management Committee and FRRME UK’s Operations Committee, members heard an urgent appeal for emergency funding for the Foundation’s work in Iraq, specifically to provide immediate aid to refugees flooding into Kurdistan.
Speaking to members by telephone from his home in the United Kingdom, Canon Andrew White, President of FRRME, addressed the need for additional funds for Christians and Muslims who have fled their homes in northern Iraq, many of whom have sought refuge in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. ISIS extremists have given Christians in Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city) three options: convert to Islam, pay a tax as Christians or literally be put to the sword. Most Christians fled the city in response, their houses and property seized by ISIS, who marked their homes with an Arabic “N” for “Nazarene,” adding that the houses were now the property of the Islamic State.
A FRRME staffer added the report that she had visited camps near the Kurdish capital of Erbil days before where thousands of refugees were living in austere conditions. Many had not had food or water for five days.
The committees recommended approval, and the proposition was put to a vote of FRRME Board members who approved the emergency funding.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Rev. Canon Dr. Andrew White, President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East and chaplain to St. George’s Church, Baghdad, has received the 2014 William Wilberforce Award.
The award is presented each year to the person the board of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview feels has best exemplified the passion and principles of William Wilberforce as a witness of real Christianity in society.
Canon White is the first Anglican priest ever to win the award. The only previous British recipient was the Baroness Caroline Cox, who received the award in 1995 and who also happens to be a member of FRRME’s Board. The 2013 prize went to the Archbishop of New York, His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
In his May 3 acceptance speech, Canon White said that he hoped the award would be seen as a confirmation of the radical role of the Anglican Church in peace making and in particular, St. George’s in Baghdad. He noted that it was a tremendous honor to receive the award in memory of one of the greatest statesmen of the Christian faith. The award was presented the same week that Christian leaders released a major declaration in Congress calling for the protection of the persecuted Church. Canon White also spoke at this event at the Capitol and attended a Board meeting of the American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.
The William Wilberforce Award is named for the eighteenth-century British parliamentarian, whose impassioned, well-reasoned debates and writings helped end Britain’s slave trade and reform the corroding values of England. The example of Wilberforce and his friends sparked a sweeping spiritual movement throughout the country, which in turn transformed a variety of social ills.