Brazilian Catholic activist awarded "alternative Nobel prize"

Francisco "Chico" Whitaker, a director of the Brazilian Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and co-founder of the massive World Social Forum gatherings, will share the 2006 Right Livelihood Award with three other people including Vietnam era whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg.

Sweden's English newspaper, The Local reports that the annual Right Livelihood Award presented by the Swedish Parliament is to be split four ways in 2006.

Mr Whitaker, a Catholic activist who returned to his native Brazil in 1982 after 15 years in forced exile, wins an honorary award which is given to a person or group whose work the jury wishes to recognise but who is not primarily in need of monetary support.

He was a key figure in the formation of the World Social Forum in 2000, an event intended as a counterpoint to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Mr Whitaker visited Australia and the Pacific last year for the New Pentecost Forum, a Christian forum inspired by the World Social Forum.

The other three winners are Vietnam-era whistleblower Mr Ellsberg, the Indian campaigner for women's rights, Ruth Manorama, and the Colombian Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin.

The winners get to share 2 million kronor ($A370,000) in prize money.

Daniel Ellsberg was a former State Department official, who leaked the so-called Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and several other newspapers in 1971.

The papers showed that the US had expanded its role in the Vietnam War despite president Lyndon Johnson's claims to the contrary.

The Right Livelihood Award has been presented annually in the Swedish Parliament since 1980, with the presentation generally taking place the day before the Nobel Prize ceremony.

"The award winners share personal courage and have worked for social transformation," said Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, who sold a valuable stamp collection to create the prize in 1980.

Indian woman Dalit activist honoured

The Indian Catholic adds that Indian women's rights activist Ms Manorama, a Christian convert, was honoured for her crusade for equality of Dalit (untouchable) women.

Ms Manorama, who is herself from the Dalit community, has helped throw the spotlight on the precarious situation of Dalit women in India. She calls them "Dalits among the Dalits."

Ms Manorama has also contributed enormously to breaking the upper-class, upper-caste image of the women's movement in India. In 2005, she was one of 1000 nominees for the '1000 women for the Nobel Peace prize' campaign.

"Whenever I feel discouraged or tired, one look at the dedication of the poor women to their families and society is enough to move me," Ms Manorama said.

I have tremendous confidence in the capacity of the poor to transform not only their own lives but also to build a just, humane and democratic society."

Picture: Chico Whitaker with Julie Morgan from the Franciscan justice and peace office

Right Livelihood award split three ways The Local, Sweden's English News, 28/9/06)
Women's rights activist bags Right Livelihood Award (Indian Catholic, 28/9/06)
Winners of 2006 "Alternative Nobel Prize" announced (Raw Story, 28/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Chico Whitaker, Honorary Award, 2006
New Pentecost Forum 2005 | 2006 Forum

Brazilian Catholic activist urges Church to forget about power (CathNews, 13/5/05)
Catholic dissidents in Cuba call for calm (CathNews, 16/8/06)

29 Sep 2006