Elias Chacour, a Roman Catholic priest from Galilee, was named today as the winner of the 18th Niwano Peace Prize.
The prize, which includes a certificate, a medal, and 20 million yen (almost $200,000), will be presented to 61-year-old Father Chacour on May 10 at a ceremony in Tokyo. The awarding of the prize to a Palestinian who preaches peace seems intended by the Niwano Foundation to send a message to all parties to the violence in Jerusalem and beyond.
The foundation was lavish in its praise for the priest, expressing "its great esteem for his dedication to preach through the means of education". The foundation was referring to the educational institutions Chacour has set up where young Jews, Muslims, and Christians are taught together.
Chacour, who in 1994 won the World Methodist Peace Award, is known for his robust defense of peace and justice in the Holy Land. He is a highly articulate preacher who is welcomed warmly by Christians around the world. He has also written extensively, and his book Blood Brothers has been translated into 28 languages.
In 1996, addressing 2,700 people at the World Methodist Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Chacour said that the Holy Land was being emptied of its own Christians and those that remained in the region were powerless and voiceless. He criticized Christian tourists who visited the Holy Land, but did not meet the indigenous Christians there. "Living stones are more important than holy shrines," he declared. "Travelers visit the sand and stones, but don't want to share the faith with their brothers and sisters."
He also pointed out that God did not belong to Christians alone nor to any other single community. "God is not a tribal God," he said. "Not being tribal, God can no more be the ...1
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