The Chicago-based Niagara Foundation, an organization established with the support of the local Turkish community that seeks to promote peace in society and intercultural dialogue, presented its 5th Peace and Dialogue Awards on Wednesday.
Allison Rosati, co-anchor of NBC5 News, was the emcee at the event.
The Peace and Dialogue Awards are given to individuals and organizations who have contributed their time, energy, leadership and dedication to the cause of dialogue, peace, tolerance, community service and understanding in the Chicago area.
The Lifetime Leadership Award was presented to Jesse White, the secretary of state for Illinois. White said he was proud to work with Niagara and of its mission to promote harmony and peace in the world. The Media Award was given to the Chicago International Film Festival. Michael Kutza, founder and artistic director of the festival, accepted the award.
The Fethullah Gulen Award was presented to Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, chancellor of the Metropolis of Chicago Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, who said the event marked a “night of peace.” He said he would do his best to deserve the award he had been given and work harder for dialogue and peace. Istanbul’s Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew also sent a letter of recognition congratulating Bishop Demetrios in which he said: “We truly appreciate your dedication to the goals of the foundation and applaud your unwavering commitment to promoting intercultural cooperation, mutual understanding and peace among our human family. It is our prayer that you may continue to labor for religious liberty, freedom and equality on behalf of your community and the Orthodox Church.”
Deborah L. DeHaas, vice chairman and Midwest regional managing partner of Deloitte LLP, received the Commitment Award. In her speech she thanked the Niagara Foundation for being the voice of different communities in Chicago.
Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn sent a letter of recognition to the event, congratulating the honorees. “Since its inception in 1997, the Niagara Foundation has worked to promote a world where people from all walks of life interact to serve their communities. This service strengthens our society and highlights the importance of cooperation and teamwork,” he said in his message.
Fethullah Gulen, the honorary president of the Niagara Foundation, also sent a message to the event that emphasized the need for peace in the world, universal values and respect for differences. Gülen’s message said honoring individuals and organizations that work for the high ideals of establishing peace and dialogue would also serve long-lasting peace and solidarity in the world. He also congratulated and thanked the honorees for their contributions.
Stanley Davis, co-executive director of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, delivered the closing speech. He recalled the recent terrorist attempt to stage an explosion in New York, pointing out the danger that some might use this incident to smear Muslims. He called on tolerant Muslims to speak out more loudly in these times. He also thanked the honorees and those who had sent letters of recognition to the event.