The Harmony Foundation, based in Mumbai, on Oct. 27 conferred its Mother Teresa Awards on eight individuals and an organization for their work towards social justice and peace in the world.
“We strive to restore belief in compassion and egalitarianism that highlights the various endeavors taken up by individuals and NGOs to promote peace and strengthen humanity as a whole,” Abraham Mathai, who founded The Harmony Foundation in 2005, told CNA.
Given that there are so many awards given to those in cinema, music, sports, and corporate excellence, Mathai considered that it would be right to “appreciate and acknowledge” those who work for social justice and peace.
“There could not be a better name than Mother Teresa,” he said. The awards were praised by Sr. Nirmala, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity from 1997-2009, who said that naming the award for Mother Teresa reflects an “appreciation of our Mother and her humble works of love among the poorest of the poor.”
Mathai established The Harmony Foundation to build up communal harmony among various groups, especially in India, working without discrimination of caste, creed, or sex. The foundation partners with its patrons Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi; Mahesh Bhatt, a Bollywood producer; and Vishnu Bhagwat, an Indian admiral.
This year's recipients were Fr. Cedric Prakash; Indian Rescue Mission; Sindhutai Sapkal; Diep Saeeda; Hanumappa Sudarshan; Arunachalam Murunganatham; Sushmita Sen; Sam Childers; and Maulana Mahmood Madani.
Childers protects and rescues orphans in South Sudan and Uganda who would be in danger of recruitment as child soldiers. Born in the U.S., Childers became involved with drugs and motorcycle gangs, but converted to Christianity in 1992.
Since a 1998 trip to Sudan, Childers has devoted himself to caring for east African children affected by war and other violence. Accepting the award in Mumbai, he said, “this award belongs to the thousands of children in war-struck Sudan, and in many other parts of the world, who live a daily life with the constant fear and threat of attacks.”
Fr. Cedric Prakash is a Jesuit who has served India's marginalized minorities, and Indian Rescue Mission is an organization which rescues girls sold into prostitution. Sindhutai Sapkal has devoted herself to caring for orphans, and Diep Saeeda is Pakistani activist for women's rights.
Hanumappa Sudarshan is a physician who serves tribal communities in South Asia, and Arunachalam Murunganatham is an entrepreneur who developed a more cost-effective means of producing feminine hygiene products, providing both employment and better health care for the women of rural India.
Bollywood actress and former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen was awarded for her social outreach campaigns, including advocacy for educating special needs children. Maulana Mahmood Madani is a Muslim politician in India who advocates for minorities and disaster relief, and has been an outspoken opponent of terrorism.