Basil Kerski awarded Polish Prize of Sérgio Vieira de Mello
On October 25th 2018 in Kraków, at Villa Decius, the headquarters of the Villa Decius Association, in the presence of the members of the committee of the the Polish Prize of Sérgio Vieira de Mello, foreign diplomats and numerous guests, the director of the European Solidarity Centre, Basil Kerski, was honoured with the Polish Prize of Sérgio Vieira de Mello – the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2002-2003).
Kerski received the award for his long-time work and commitment to the peaceful co-existence of societies, religions and cultures.
“This Prize has a special meaning to me,” Kerski said. “My father came from Iraq, and Sérgio Vieira de Mello died in a terrorist attack at the headquarters of the UN office in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital.” In his speech, Kerski quoted, among others, the words of John Paul II which the late Pope uttered during his last pilgrimage to Damascus.
Pointing out that John Paul II somehow foresaw the oncoming trends and fears, Kerski read an excerpt from the papal speech: “It is my ardent hope that Muslim and Christian religious leaders and teachers will present our two great religious communities as communities in respectful dialogue, never more as communities in conflict. It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence. Violence destroys the image of the Creator in his creatures, and should never be considered as the fruit of religious conviction.”
Finishing his speech, Kerski shared a very personal story. “I have never talked about it before, but eight years ago, terrorists killed my uncle, Falah Kamil, an employee of the Iraqi National Bank. I would like to dedicate this prize to him. This is how the fate of my family and the family of Sérgio Vieira de Mello are intermingling.”
The prize has been awarded for the last 15 years to persons and non-governmental organisations for their work for peaceful co-existence and co-operation. It was initiated by the Vila Decius Association in Kraków.
Read Kerski’s autobiographical essay “Migration, fear it not” which was originally published in New Eastern Europe in 2015.