BEIRUT — Adyan, a Lebanese foundation for interreligious studies and spiritual solidarity, is the recipient of the 35th Niwano Peace Prize.
Lebanon now moves “a firm step further toward its recognition as a world center for dialogue between cultures and religions,” said Maronite Father Fadi Daou, president of Adyan Foundation, in announcing the international award in Beirut Feb. 19.
“Peace has a specific name in Lebanon, and that is ‘living-together,'” he added.
Daou is one of the five founders of Adyan (“religions” in Arabic), each of whom are followers of different denominations of Christianity and Islam.
Since its foundation in 2006, Adyan “has worked to take interreligious dialogue from apologetic debates and populist complacency, to a common commitment in what we call ‘religious social responsibility,'” Daou said.
The Tokyo-based Niwano Peace Foundation established the Niwano Peace Prize in 1983 to honor and encourage individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to interreligious cooperation, thereby furthering the cause of world peace. It is named for Nikkyo Niwano, founder and first president of the lay Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-kai.
The award’s selection committee commended Adyan for valuing “religious diversity in promoting peace and social justice” and cited Adyan as “a visible and committed actor for peace in Lebanon and the broader region.”
Past Niwano Peace Prize recipients include Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara; Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talal; retired Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa, Israel; the late Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico; Father Hans Kung, a Swiss theologian; the World Muslim Congress; and the Sant’Egidio Community.
Daou recalled St. John Paul II’s declaration that “Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message” of coexistence for East and West.
“I really believe that this award, coming from Japan, is ‘another voice’ — now from the East — to remind us of what John Paul II said,” the priest said.
“Worldwide, peace today signifies justice and the liberation of oppressed people,” Daou said. “It also means stopping the implication of religion in political choices and ending linking religion to violence and extremism.”
While it is important to discover what is common among religions, Daou noted, even more important is “to discover the differences between religions and to educate people — especially the youth — to respect those differences, as an expression of our belief in freedom of conscience and our refusal of all forms of coercion and takfirism (considering others as infidels),” he said.
Daou said the “problematic reality” in the Middle East “pushes us to go a step further in order to promote interreligious solidarity in the combat of extremism and of injustice.”
Recent Adyan initiatives include offering interfaith mediation dialogue and peace education to vulnerable Syrian citizens, both in Lebanon and Syria. In Iraq, working with journalists and civil society activists, Adyan focuses on spreading the values of inclusive citizenship and interreligious solidarity, particularly to heal the society from the traumas of Islamic State.
Daou said that Adyan will continue on its path “for the adoption of pluralism as a social and political value in Arab countries.”
“It will also work for the promotion of resilience to all forms of extremism and for the development of social cohesion, spiritual solidarity, intercivilizational encounter and world stability,” he added.
By 2016, a decade after its foundation, Adyan had more than 3,000 members with some 35,000 direct beneficiaries in 29 countries.
The Niwano Peace Prize ceremony will take place in Tokyo May 9.