The 2015 Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize has been awarded to the three top religious leaders of the Central African Republic.
Sergio Vieira de Mello was the UN’s Special Representative in Iraq, killed when the UN headquarters in Baghdad was bombed in August 2003. Every two years the award goes to an individual, group or organization that has done something unique to reconcile people and parties in conflict.
The President of CAR’s Evangelical Alliance, Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyamé-Gbangou, the Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, Mgr. Dieudonné Nzapalainga, and the President of the Islamic Council in CAR, Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, have spoken out against religious extremism and promoted peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims.
TIME Magazine named them among the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2014, and the French Magazine Le Monde called them “the three saints of Bangui.”
In the midst of two years of violence in CAR, often portrayed as a religious conflict, the three clerics formed a joint platform to promote peaceful coexistence. Their message: “Violence in CAR is not primarily caused by religious conflict; instead, the root of the conflict lies in the struggle for political power.”
Nzapalainga sheltered the imam and his family for several months in his own home.
The award ceremony will take place on 19 August 2015 during the events marking World Humanitarian Day in Geneva, Switzerland.