Latifa ibn Ziaten and Antonio Guterres, winners of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2021 

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

Feb 4 2021

The winners of the 2021 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity were announced on Wednesday: Latifah Ibn Ziaten, Founder of Imad Association for Youth and Peace who, after losing her son to an act of terrorism, transformed her sorrow into reaching out to young people, and António Guterres, ninth Secretary General of the United Nations.

On Thursday, 4 February, the world celebrates the first International Day of Human Fraternity. Part of the these celebrations is the awarding of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.

The recipients of the Award were announced on Wednesday via a virtual press conference. These winners were selected by an independent jury and came from a pool of persons from 30 countries who had been nominated by leaders in the areas of government, culture and religion.

About the Recipients

Presenting the winners of the 2021 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, the Secretary-General of the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity, Judge Mohamed Abdel Salam, said, “This independent, global award was conceived to encourage and recognize those who inspire us all to play our part in creating a more understanding, inclusive and peaceful world. By examining the work and impact of both 2021 honorees, it is clear that they are both role models for the next generation, world leaders, and all those engaged in similarly noble pursuits for peace.”

“Honoring Mr. Guterres and Mrs. Latifa with the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity in its first edition after the Grand Imam and Pope Francis were honored, in 2019, is a tribute to all those who love peace and an invitation to humanity to continue on this path.”

António Guterres, a politician originally from Portugal who now serves as the ninth Secretary-general of the United Nations. During the last year in which the entire world has been engulfed in the Coronavirus pandemic, Guterres raised his voice on several occasions appealing for a “global ceasefire in all corners of the world to focus together on the true fight – defeating Covid-19”.

On receiving news about the award, Mr Guterres said, “It is with humility and deep gratitude that I feel honored to receive the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity. I see it also as recognition of the work the United Nation is doing every day, everywhere, to promote peace and human dignity.”

Mr Guterres tweeted after the announcement: “My gratitude to the Higher Committee of @HumanFraternity for this recognition, which I’m honoured to receive with @LatifaIbnZ, an advocate for inter-religious dialogue. I accept this award on behalf of my @UN colleagues who work every day to advance peace & human dignity….. I am proud to share that I will donate the monetary prize associated with this award to the UN @Refugees agency, in support of its invaluable work for the most vulnerable.” 

Latifah Ibn Ziaten, Founder of the Imad Association for Youth and Peace. Latifah is originally from Morocco and is the mother of five children. In 1977 she relocated to France when she was seventeen. One of her sons, Imad, joined France’s 1st Paratroop Regiment. Imad was murdered near Toulouse in 2012. She later sought out her son’s murderer, Mohammed Merah so as to understand what had led him to commit murder.

That meeting allowed her to enter into the world of a young person who felt abandoned, and who had never succeeded in integrating to society at large. Since founding the Imad Association for Youth and Peace, Latifah travels throughout France to tell her story, the meet with young people. Her hope is to contribute to preserving “social harmony” between the older and young generations, and among both persons native to France, and migrants.

On receiving news about the award, Latifah Ibn Ziaten said, “It is a great honor, and indeed humbling, to have been recognized by the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity for the work I and many others do, each day, in addressing extremism though dialogue, mutual respect, and peaceful co-existence. Most importantly, I hope this award helps raise awareness among a wider audience about the need to continue these efforts.”

Both Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar will jointly present the award during the virtual ceremony on Thursday. The meeting and the award ceremony will be streamed in several languages starting at 14:30 (Rome time) – 13.30 (GMT time) – by Vatican News, the multimedia information portal of the Holy See, and broadcast by Vatican Media.

About the Award

The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity was inspired by the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Head of Muslim Council of Elders in the UAE on 4 February 2019. Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Head of Muslim Council of Elders, were the first recipients of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity in 2019.

It was later revealed that Pope Francis donated the full amount of the award to the Rohingya people from Myanmar. During the first anniversary celebrations of the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced that the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity would become an annual event.

The award recognizes above all those who build bridges connecting divided peoples, strengthening the real human relationships that make possible the work of ensuring freedom and safety for all. In addition, the Zayed Award honors the values of the Founder of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed, who lived a life of peaceful coexistence.

The award is given as part of the International Day of Human Fraternity, which the United Nations General Assembly declared in recognition of the ongoing efforts of leaders and religious figures cooperating to promote peace, harmony and intercultural dialogue in the world.

This article was updated to reflect the tweet published by António Guterres. – Vatican News