PARIS, MARCH 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- UNESCO had awarded Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize.
The French cardinal received the award on March 24, together with Grand Mufti Mustafa Cedric of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The award by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was instituted in 1991 to “honor persons in their lifetime, and public or private institutions that have made a significant contribution to the promotion, search, and preservation of peace, in keeping with the United Nations Charter and UNESCO’s Constitution.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State and Nobel Peace laureate Henry Kissinger presided over the international jury that awarded the prize.
Announcing the jury’s decision, Kissinger declared: “These two religious personalities have been chosen in recognition of their action in favor of interfaith dialogue, tolerance and peace. The jury believes reconciliation of religious views to be one of the great challenges of our age.”
“This is a particularly important challenge for the country of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the creator of the prize, where the reconciliation of Muslims and Christians is very important if bloodshed is to be avoided,” Kissinger added. “But we have considered the importance of religious reconciliation for the whole of humanity.” Houphouët-Boigny was the first president of Ivory Coast.
The executive secretary of the prize, Alioune Traore, explained that “by making this choice the jury sent out a strong signal to the international community in favor of interfaith dialogue, an essential fundament of peace and understanding among peoples and nations.”
John Paul II appointed Cardinal Etchegaray president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1984, when he was archbishop of Marseilles. Over the past 20 years, the cardinal has been known for undertaking reconciliation missions on behalf of the Pope in Iraq, Iran, Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia, Sudan and Cuba, among other countries.