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January 27 2000


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Paris, January 27 {No.2000-6} - The Community of Sant'Egidio, whose headquarters are in Rome, was today chosen as the laureate of the 1999 Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize by an international jury presided by former US Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Henry Kissinger, in recognition of the importance of its work for peace through inter-faith dialogue and understanding.

Announcing the decision at the close of the jury meeting, Mr Kissinger explained: "In a period when many countries around the world are experiencing ethnic, religious and other conflicts, our choice comes in recognition of the efforts of the Community of Sant'Egidio to achieve ecumenical reconciliation among all religions and for their work in Algeria, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Yugoslavia." Mr Kissinger further highlighted the Community's "contribution to human understanding and to solving religious, political and ethnic conflicts."

Former President of Portugal Mário Soares, who is a member of the jury, spoke of the Community of Sant'Egidio's work praising their continuing efforts to bring together religious personalities of all faiths and their commitment to the idea that "the road to peace is to be found in dialogue among the religions." He also praised their mediation work saying: "They are responsible for peace and for the first free elections in Mozambique. They tried [to achieve the same thing] in Angola but did not succeed and they have also worked in Guinea Bissau and other parts of Africa as well as in Algeria and [...] in Kosovo". He also spoke of their work for the poor around the world: "They fight poverty for human dignity." Mr Soares further pointed out that the President and founder of the Community is a layman, Andrea Riccardi, a Law Professor at the University of Rome.

The time and venue of the ceremony at which the FrF800,000 Prize, peace diploma and medal will be awarded will be determined shortly after consultation with the laureate.

The Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize - created in 1989 and awarded by UNESCO annually - honours people, organisations and institutions which have contributed significantly to the promotion, research, safeguarding or maintaining of peace, mindful of the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitution of UNESCO. The Prize is named after the first president of Côte d'Ivoire, Félix Houphouët-Boigny.

The international jury of the Prize - composed of jurists, elder statesmen and former heads of state and Nobel Peace Prize laureates - last year honoured both Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Senator George Mitchell, former Special Adviser to US President Clinton for Irish Affairs. Previous winners include: President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines and Nur Misuari, Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1997; Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzu and Guatemalan guerrilla leader Rolando Moran (1996), the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and its High Commissioner Sadako Ogata (1995); King Juan Carlos of Spain and former US President Jimmy Carter (1994); Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat (1993); the International Law Academy in The Hague (1992); Nelson Mandela and Frederik W. De Klerk (1991).

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