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First Greeley peace prize awarded to Liberian women's group

Prize honoring first UUA president presented at World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Japan.
By Donald E. Skinner
9.8.06

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William G. Sinkford and Fatumata Shariff

UUA President William G. Sinkford gives first Greeley peace prize to Fatumata Shariff of the Women’s Desk of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia. (Helio Fred Garcia/World Conference of Religions for Peace)

A new peace prize named for the Rev. Dana McLean Greeley, the first president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, was awarded August 26 to the Women’s Desk of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia. The Dana McLean Greeley Memorial Prize for Peace was presented by UUA President William G. Sinkford to Fatumata Shariff, a representative of the Women’s Desk.

The Inter-Religious Council is active in working for peace in Liberia and is a consortium of the National Muslim Council and the Liberian Council of Churches. The two groups came together as a result of the Liberian civil war in the 1990s. The Women’s Desk was chosen for the award for its progress in addressing issues of violence against women in Liberia.

Shariff said: “It is such a privilege for African women to win this award. Liberian women passed through such a difficult time during the crisis in our country. The prize is motivation for us to work even harder to make peace a reality in Liberia.” She said the Women’s Desk will use the $5,000 award to address issues of violence against women, including rape and genital mutilation.

The Dana McLean Greeley Foundation for Peace and Justice, which made the award, was established in 1986 in honor of Greeley, who died in that year. He was the last president of the American Unitarian Association (1958–1961) before it merged with the Universalist Church of America to form the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1961. He then served as the UUA’s first president from 1961 to 1969. He was the minister of several churches in New England, including the Arlington Street Church in Boston (1935–1958) and the First Parish in Concord, Mass. (1970–1986).

The Greeley Foundation was created by the Concord congregation and Greeley’s friends and colleagues in honor of his commitment to peace and justice. A nonsectarian group dedicated to world peace, the foundation has sponsored a number of international conferences, facilitated international exchange programs, and provided leadership to international discussions on peace issues. The foundation expects to establish an endowment for future peace prizes and award them at each gathering of Religions for Peace.

This year’s award was presented at the 8th World Assembly of Religions for Peace, held in Kyoto, Japan, August 26–29. The assembly, which occurs every three to five years, addresses issues of violence that impact the world. Sinkford was one of 513 religious leaders who were delegates to the meeting.

Greeley was a founder of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, the assembly’s sponsor, in 1962. Another founder was the Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, who was also a founder of the Japanese Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-kai. The assembly honored the late Niwano this year for his peace work.

Greeley and Niwano were close friends for many years and worked together on issues of peace. Edward Perry, Greeley Foundation chair, said the foundation initiated the award this year so that the strong relationship between Greeley and Niwano would be highlighted at the same time that the assembly was honoring Niwano.

In other developments at the World Assembly, the North Korean delegation to the conference was denied entry visas by the Japanese government. In protest the assembly convened a meeting to discuss security issues in the Korean Peninsula. The attendees held six-party talks to parallel the political discussions held earlier by six nations. Present at the RFP talks were delegations from South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States. Sinkford represented the U.S. delegation and spoke at a subsequent press conference along with the South Korean delegation.


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