Nobel Peace Prize

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

I was in the midst of writing my column for Sunday, which I write two days ahead, when I heard the breaking news that Maria Ressa was the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021. I decided I needed to say a few words for such a momentous and historic occasion.

There will be more writers who will write about Maria Ressa who know her much better than I or who have had time to do research. So I will not spend too much time and space on her profile.

This is the official announcement I read: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the 2021 Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dimitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

The one thing I will emphasize is that a Nobel Prize is the most prestigious international award. We celebrated as a nation Hidlyn Diaz when she won the first Olympic gold medal for the Philippines. That was an award worth a national celebration.

A Nobel Prize is much more than an Olympic gold medal. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that both prizes were won for the first time by a woman. Perhaps, this is the year of the woman for the Philippines.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually along with prizes in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine and Literature. Since 1901, the Peace Prize has been given to those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Among those who have received the Nobel Peace Prize are Theodore Roosevelt (1906) for brokering peace between Japan and Russia; International Red Cross (1917) for efforts to take care of wounded soldiers and prisoners of war; Woodrow Wilson (1919) for his role in founding the League of Nations; Carl von Ossietzky (1935) for his burning love for freedom of thought and expression and his valuable contribution to peace; Ralph Bunche (1950) for his work as mediator in Palestine; Albert Schweitzer (19520) for his altruism, reverence for life and tireless humanitarian work; UN High Commissioner for Refugees (1954) for its efforts to heal the wounds of war by providing help and protection to refugees; Martin Luther King Jr. (1964) for his non-violent struggle for civil rights; UNICEF (1965) for its efforts to enhance solidarity between nations and reduce the difference between rich and poor states; Mother Teresa (1979) for her work for bringing help to suffering humanity; Dalai Lama (1989) for advocating peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect; Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk (1993) for their work in the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime; Barack Obama (2009) for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples; Kaiplash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai (2014) for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education: World Food Program (2020) for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict affected regions and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.

Maria Ressa joins these outstanding personalities and institutions that have tried to make our world a safer and more humane world.

Somebody sent me a message that 2021 seems to be the year of women for the Philippines. During the Marcos martial law era, there was a group of women writers who met regularly to try and keep their profession and mission alive. One of the earliest I remember was Arlene Babst, who wrote a regular column and managed to include subtle messages of protest in her column.

Almost all Nobel Peace Prizes have been controversial. This award to Maria Ressa is not going to be an exception. The one thing our nation should share is the pride that for the first time, a Filipino (Filipina) won a Nobel Prize which will be hailed throughout the world. We have one of our own who now belongs to that outstanding list of humanitarian individuals recognized by the world as global role models.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Let it never be said by future generations that indifference, cynicism or selfishness made us fail to live up to the ideals of humanism which the Nobel Peace Prize encapsulates.”

Last Sunday I wrote a column about the book LET US DREAM: The Path to a Better Future by Pope Francis which he wrote in the midst of the pandemic. In this book the pope explains why we must and how we can make the world safer, fairer and healthier for all people now.

During this COVID crisis, he has seen the cruelty and inequity of our society more vividly exposed than before. Pope Francis urges us not to let the pain be in vain. He also offers us a critique of the systems and ideologies that have conspired to produce the current crisis. Then he offers a blueprint for building a better world for all humanity. This is the part – the blueprint – that merits further discussion.

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October Writing Date: Oct. 23, 2-3 p.m. Young Writers’ Hangout on writing book reviews with Bebang Siy. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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