FOR 2012 Peace Award Winners Act Locally and Make Change Globally
Each year the Fellowship of Reconciliation issues an international, a national, and a local peace award to individuals or organizations whose work for peace, justice, and reconciliation is recognized as a life-long commitment. FOR’s 2012 award recipients are change-makers whose grassroots efforts have inspired countless others to join the cause to end war and strengthen peace.
FOR’s International Pfeffer Peace Award was established in 1989 by Leo and Freda Pfeffer to honor those around the world working for peace with justice. This year’s awardee is Dr. Hakim, the founder and mentor of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV, formerly the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers). Hakim, a medical doctor from Singapore schooled in Gandhian nonviolence, gave up a private medical practice and moved to Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Province more than nine years ago. For two years prior to moving to Afghanistan, he worked as a public health doctor in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan.
APV formed after 55 multi-ethnic students in Hakim’s workshop at Bamiyan University concluded that “peace was impossible” in Afghanistan during their lifetimes. He raised the possibility of “love” as a central theme for their lives, and invited the students to live together for a semester. A multiethnic group of 16 Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, and Turkmen volunteered. The experiment stirred up considerable controversy with religious leaders, but it was enough of a success to inspire Hakim to gather more young volunteers. The group that formed in 2008, originally called Our Journey to Smile, later became the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, now APV. Hakim humbly attributes the APVs’ creation and sustaining energy to the young people themselves. The compassionate message from their hearts, evident as they spoke to him of their wish to live without war, continues to be his inspiration.
Working in conjunction with U.S. and international peacemakers, Hakim has amplified the voice of Afghan youth. With his guidance and perseverance, APV created a web site and produced videos to educate others about Afghanistan, awaken the world’s conscience, and build a network of allies. Through the Global Days of Listening program, a chapter of FOR, the Afghan Peace Volunteers have developed and nurtured relationships in more than two-dozen countries, from North America to Central Africa, Europe to Southeast Asia, Australia to Latin America.
In pursuit of their vision for “all ethnic groups uniting for a nonviolent movement towards a peaceful life,” Hakim and the youth created a peace park in Bamiyan Province, using funds from A Book of Questions (created by the youth and published by Operation Mercy). They posted signs in the park asking “Why Not Love?” and “Why Not Peace?” Although vandalized twice, the signs have been re-painted and now there is a beautiful green patch in the city.
The Bamiyan youth, mostly Hazara with a few Tajik and mixed-race young adults, made 100 cell phone pouches from scrap leather, with the word Sohl (which means “peace” in Dari, the local language) printed on one side to send to Pashtun youth as a gesture of reconciliation. Various APV lost family members at the hands of Pashtun Taliban members. They followed the gift with a phone call to the Pashtun young people. The response they received was, “I can’t believe that there can be such love.”
When news came that U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry would visit Bamiyan, the APV youth embarked on a public seven-day vigil, hoping to get a statement entitled “Reconciliation of Civil Hearts” delivered to President Obama. The ambassador told them he would deliver the statement, but they have yet to receive a response from the White House.
In the spring of 2011, Hakim helped organize an inter-ethnic peace march in the center of Kabul where the APV marched from the Iranian embassy to the U.N. embassy. The group was then joined by twenty-six international peacemakers for a tree planting celebration and a candlelight remembrance service. Recently, Hakim took three of his young mentees on a pilgrimage to India to learn more about the Gandhian tradition and to broaden their perspectives.
Although grateful for the affirmation of their work, Hakim and the youth have respectfully declined a public presentation of the Pfeffer Peace Award, preferring that all Afghan workers for peace are celebrated for their common struggle. The monetary prize will be deposited into a scholarship fund for furthering the education of the Afghan youth.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Award was established by FOR in 1979 to recognize unheralded persons or groups working in the United States in the tradition of Rev. Dr. King. This year the award is presented to Jim Murphy, a Vietnam veteran who has been a tireless advocate for peace and social justice, resisting militarism, and supporting the rights of military veterans.
Murphy served a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1966 and another tour in 1968 as an Air Force radioman, installing and operating small tactical radios at military bases in Northern I Corps. He returned home with an injured leg. After physically healing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Washington VAMC, Murphy attended the University of Maryland to major in education.
His spiritual healing began in 1971 upon attending the Winter Soldier rally in Detroit where he learned of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Murphy became the VVAW chapter coordinator on his campus, and later became coordinator of the Maryland state chapter. In April of 1971, Murphy participated in Dewey Canyon III where vets camped out on the National Mall in D.C. to peacefully protest the ongoing Vietnam war. More than 800 vets, one by one, tossed their medals, ribbons, discharge papers, and other war mementos on the steps of the Capital to reject the war and the significance of those awards. Murphy’s Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit citation, Vietnam Service medals, and Purple Heart hit the marble steps. Also that year, he helped to start a “Half-Step” program for heroin-addicted veterans, and during Christmas of 1971, he helped to plan “Operation Peace On Earth,” which included the famous take-over of the Statue of Liberty by 14 Vietnam veterans, one of whom was Murphy.
“It was through these experiences that I was exposed to the power of nonviolence as a lifestyle and template for my spirituality,” Murphy said. “I have never stopped advocating for veterans who have felt the pain and despair of war.”
Throughout his career as an educator, Murphy continued to carry a strong message for peace and reconciliation. As a teacher and then educational director of the Shont’ai Wilderness School for court-referred teenaged boys, Murphy taught life skills that included conflict resolution. As a teacher at Westside Alternative High School, a public school for at-risk students in New York City, he taught classes on drugs, war, and history, and worked to foster self-esteem in street kids and homeless children. For the 20 years that he was dean, military recruiters were banned from Westside High.
In 1992, Murphy and Dayl Wise (editor of Post Traumatic Press) founded, with Veterans For Peace, a truth-in-recruiting network to develop teams of anti-war veterans to counter-recruit in high schools. Called New York Veterans Speak Out, they covered 40 to 60 schools per year, held trainings for other veteran and community groups, and became the largest counter-recruitment effort in the United States. As a continuous voice for peace, Murphy has been a public spokesperson at countless conferences and on national media programs like “Democracy Now!” with Amy Goodman. He was a fundraiser/supporter at Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan, and is a well-loved exhibitor at the annual Clearwater Music Festival.
Murphy has served as a valued member of FOR’s National Council since 2010, and is founding coordinator of the Veterans’ Fellowship of Reconciliation, a new chapter of FOR focused on developing counter-recruitment programs and advocating for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. One of VFOR’s projects is to send relevant books to incarcerated Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (estimates are in excess of 40,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in prison). VFOR also strongly supports the anti-drone and anti-fracking movements, both of which are mobilizing in upstate New York where he lives.
In addition to continuing to speak in high schools, Murphy’s other current endeavors include being a senior board member of Veterans’ Sanctuary, a healing collective of Iraq and Afghanistan vets. Centered around a residence near Ithaca, NY, the sanctuary offers three healing activities for veterans: an organic, labor intensive, community farm that invites local communities and schools to join the veterans in growing healthy food; Warrior Writers’ sessions that encourage the writing and sharing of common traumas and issues; and Combat Paper production in which combat fatigues are rendered into a fiber mash that becomes the paper for their poetry and artwork.
The Nyack Area Peace Award was started in 2006 to honor an organization or individual involved in significant peace and justice work in the community of FOR’s national headquarters in New York’s lower Hudson Valley. This year’s award recipient is Alan Levin.
Alan Levin is a psychotherapist, meditation teacher, and activist who lives and works for peace and nonviolent justice in Rockland County. One of the founding members of the Hudson Valley FOR chapter in 2009, Levin is a consistent presence and often the organizer of local actions and gatherings for a cause. As a practitioner and teacher of meditation and shamanism, he exudes a calm strength and offers a way to “inner peace” through formal instruction as well as through the power of his example as a peaceful warrior.
Levin came to the Hudson Valley from the San Francisco Bay Area, where he had been on the faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies, John F. Kennedy University, and the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. While living on the west coast, he taught approaches to the treatment of addiction, group therapy, Jewish mysticism, and the integration of psycho-spiritual development with social/political involvement. In 1990, he founded Holos Institute, a California nonprofit, in which he trained and supervised intern therapists to merge spirituality and psychology and the study of ecopsychology.
In 2004, Levin moved to Nyack to marry Ginny Brook and together they founded Sacred River Healing. In his spare time, he began contributing to the community. He helped establish a local chapter of Tikkun, a movement to heal, repair, and transform the world, which led to dialogue between local African-American and Hasidic communities. He joined the Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice, and participated in its weekly public vigils to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Upon becoming a member of the FOR, Levin began facilitating a monthly film series, named in honor of local activist Phil Greenspan at FOR’s national headquarters. He also participated regularly in the Hudson Valley FOR’s community circles, a series of dialogue programs on critical current topics.
Levin was the organizer and driving force of the Health Care for All rally in Nyack’s Memorial Park in 2008, which attracted hundreds of participants including government officials and musicians such as Pete Seeger. Levin has also spoken on integrating meditation with political action at WESPAC, was a panel member of a community discussion on peace with the Life Leaders Forum, and has been a part of the New Futures for Palestine-Israel group that has screened films promoting nonviolent solutions to the Middle East crisis and nonviolent resistance to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories. Levin is currently active with the Rockland Water Coalition to stop the desalination project of United Water, close Indian Point nuclear reactor, stop fracking, and protect the Lower Hudson watershed.
Award presentation ceremonies to be announced
FOR will present the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Award to Jim Murphy and the Nyack Area Peace Award to Alan Levin at events that are yet to be determined. For more information about the 2012 FOR peace award winners or the various award presentations, please contact Linda Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (845) 358-4601 ext. 35.