02/21/2022, 13.10
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2022 Niwano Peace Prize awarded to Fr Lapsley, witness of reconciliation in South Africa

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – The Niwano Peace Foundation has awarded its 39th Peace Prize, considered a sort of Nobel of religions, to Fr Michael Lapsley, an Anglican missionary working in South Africa, for “his relentless struggle against apartheid and social discriminations, his support for the liberation movement in South Africa and various peacebuilding activities in other parts of the world”.

Born in New Zealand in 1949, Fr Lapsley was ordained an Anglican priest in 1973. After that, he was sent to Durban in South Africa to work as a university chaplain where he begun to fight against apartheid.

Expelled from the country in 1976, he settled in Lesotho where he worked with the African National Congress for the rights of blacks in South Africa.

In 1990, when he was still in exile in Zimbabwe, he lost both hands and an eye to a letter bomb addressed to him. Despite this, he “did not become bitter”. Instead, as one Committee member put it, "he set about working on healing and reconciliation.”

Upon his return to South Africa in 1992, he began working with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in 1998 he helped found the Institute for Healing of Memories (IHOM) in Cape Town.

Outside South Africa he contributed to bringing IHOM’s approach to other countries affected by conflicts, including conflicts between family members of different generations who have experienced trauma.

“Everyone has a story to tell and each story must be heard, recognised and respected,” Fr Michael loves to repeat. “This is the first step towards healing both at a personal and interpersonal level.”

The official award ceremony is set to take place on 14 June in Tokyo. In addition to an award certificate, Fr. Lapsley will receive a medal and a cash prize worth 20 million yen (US$ 175,000).

Every year, the Niwano Peace Prize honours individuals or organisations that have significantly contributed to interfaith dialogue by promoting the cause of peace.

It is named after Nikkyo Niwano, a great Japanese promoter of peace who died in 1999. He was a founder and first president of the Rissho Kosei-kai, a lay Buddhist organisation.

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