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Moderator Hon. Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, the former president of the Chamber of Deputies (1989-2009) of Luxembourg, introduced the laureates:
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, the chief executive director of the Afghan Institute for Learning (AIL), Afghanistan, spoke about her work. When she founded AIL in 1995, Afghanistan had been at war for 13 years and more than half of the population was displaced. Millions had died, Dr. Yacoobi said. The country and its institutions were destroyed. AIL has the following core principles: Involve the community; allow communities to define their own needs; listen to the community; provide high-quality and culturally sensitive training and programs; whatever you promise, deliver; and take the time to cultivate trust, and work to maintain it. She told inspiring stories about a school for refugee children in the refugee camps.
Dr. Yacoobi described her own story as a refugee when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. “My family all became refugees. I know what it feels like to be in a place where all of your rights have been taken away from you. I know how it feels to lose everything you have, including your dignity and self-confidence.” She called for greater understanding. “We must rise above the hate. We must use our voices for good. We need to remove the injustice and eliminate poverty. War is not the answer to any problem. We must work together collectively to bring peace in this world. In order to do this, we need to share our knowledge and build a support system that provides sustainable results.”
Dr. Gino Strada, the executive director of the humanitarian organization Emergency, based in Italy, recalled his own experiences. “I have spent the last thirty years of my life in war-torn countries, operating on patients in Rwanda, Peru, Ethiopia, Somalia, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. In these and other countries, Emergency—the humanitarian organization I founded 23 years ago—is committed to providing free and high-quality medical and surgical care to the victims of war, whose effects are not limited to the wounded and refugees, but have severe repercussions on the future of entire generations.”
He spoke about the “hypocrisy of the European approach to human rights. On the one hand, we firmly promote the principles of peace, democracy and fundamental rights, while, on the other, we are building a fortress made of walls and cultural barriers, denying access and basic help to thousands of people fleeing war and poverty.”
Dr. Strada called on all the participants to take action and join in the effort. “It is up to the world citizens to take action and conquer peace. Renouncing the logic of war and practicing fraternity and solidarity [are] not only desirable but urgently needed, if we want the human experiment to continue.”