Manhae Prize presented to 9 awardees

The Manhae Grand Prize was given to nine new awardees including the president of the Moroccan Writers’ Union and The AsiaN columnist Abderrahim El Allam from Morocco on August 11 at Inje Cultural Complex, some 400km away from Seoul.

The 17th Manhae Awards are given to outstanding individuals or organizations in three categories: peace, practice, and culture. The peace category winners were Kim Seong-su, 82, bishop of the Anglican Church of Korea, and the World Fellowship of Buddhists(WFB). Similarly, the practice category winners were Abderrahim El Allam, 50, from Morocco, Hwang Il-myeon, 66, a Korean Buddhist monk, and Dagon Taryar, 93, a Myanmarese poet and novelist. In line with this, the awardees in the culture category were Ahn Suk-seon, 64, a Korean pansori master singer, Ingo Schelze, 51, a German novelist, and Konstantin Kedrov, 70, a Russian poet and philosopher.

The Manhae Award winners on stage at the end of the ceremony (Photo: Lee Oh-bong)

Among prominent recipients of the Manhae awards since they were first presented in 1997 are former South African president Nelson Mandela, exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and Iranian rights advocate Shirin Ebadi.

The awards ceremony was decorated with eye-catching flowers and art works. As one entered the venue, the staff greeted all with polite, bright, welcoming smiles that made one forget the heat of the hot summer day. The awardees wrote messages of gratitude and hope before entering the hall. The Korean traditional flute music played by a young talented boy and the breath taking song offered by a hundred-member choir, all wearing Korean traditional dresses stunned the audience of 600 and prepared the hall for the highlight, the receiving of the award.

After some welcoming remarks from representatives of the Manhae foundation and local government, Bishop Kim Seong-su was first to come up to the podium and give an acceptance speech of gratitude followed by the presenting of the Grand Manhae Peace Award, where he received a big gold plaque and prize money. The other awardees gave acceptance speeches and received the gold plaque and prize money one by one. A diverse array of languages filled the hall such as Korean, English, Turkish, Arabic, Russian, and German. Most awardees spoke in their mother tongue, which was later translated into Korea. Out of the 9 awardees, 2 could not attend the ceremony due to health reasons.

Russian poet and philosopher Konstantin Kedrov gesturing during his speech (Photo: Lee Oh-bong)

Some Junior AJA reporters also attended the ceremony and before it started, had a few moments to have quick interviews with some of the awardees.

Abderrahim El Allam (left) and Hossam Soltan (right) during lunch before the Manhae Awards Ceremony

Hossam Soltan (Junior AJA reporter from Egypt): Dr. Abderrahim El Allam, would you tell us about one of your prominent achievements that is related to reading and the arts?
Abderrahim El Allam: The Moroccan Writers’ Union has been doing several projects among which the ‘Train of Reading’ is one. This project aims to provide books for the public and motivate them to read. The lesson that others could learn from is how our association worked in collaboration with the government. We have made an agreement with the government to provide a free book for each ticket bought by train passengers so they can read during the travel time. In such a way, the association has been able to publish thousands of books.

Bishop Kim Seong-su (left) and Saul Serna (right) before Manhae Awards Ceremony 

Saul Serna (Junior AJA reporter from Mexico): Bishop Kim, what are the Christian churches doing for the gay community who still remain isolated and discriminated from society?
Bishop Kim Seong-su: I am shameful at the limitations of the church and believe more can be done. As a matter of Christianity, every citizen has moral and spiritual responsibility to love one’s neighbor and promote values for humans to live healthily together.

Ahn Suk-seon (left) and Nahideh Faiaz (right) at Manhae Village before Manhae Awards Ceremony 

Nahideh Faiaz (Junior AJA reporter from Afghanistan): Would you tell us about your greatest accomplishment?
Ahn Suk-seon: One of my greatest accomplishments would be performing the 5 stories(songs) of Pansori! The stories are very long, some taking more than eight hours to perform. ‘Pansori’ is more than singing, but more like a drama performance where one sings. I received the President’s award for successfully performing all five major pansori stories. I would like more people to know about the beauty of Pansori as all the emotions of human beings like happiness, sadness, enjoyment, hardship can be expressed and conveyed to people of all backgrounds.

Maadin Sahleselassie interviewing Konstantin Kedrov during lunch before Manhae Awards Ceremony  

Maadin Sahleselassie(Junior AJA reporter from Ethiopia): Russia is home to several world class poets, philosophers and writers and these days, you are one of the major Russian poets and philosophers. Among the prominent and legendary Russian poets and philosophers, who do aspire to be like the most? Likewise, I have heard and read a heated debate about Alexander Pushkin, legendary Russian poet and philosopher, having an Ethiopian great grandfather. What do you say about this?
Konstantin Kedrov: I admire poet and philosopher Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky. Regarding Pushkin, he is, you know, like Shakespeare, whom you do not categorize to one specific nationality. He is of the world as a whole.

Lara Debeock (left) and Hwang Il-myeon (right) before Manhae Awards Ceremony 

Lara Debeock (Junior AJA reporter from Belgium): What is Buddhism’s stance on suicide and how can Buddhism play a role in preventing suicide?
Hwang Il-myeon: For Buddhists, it is a great sin to kill a living creature and therefore the taking of one’s own life is considered the worst sin. Buddhism can help prevent suicide as it can teach one to control one’s mind and feelings.

“Considering the award winners are from such varied categories as poets, novelists, scholars, traditional music performers, priests, monks, poets and philosophers only underlines that the Manhae Award is a very unique award in which the awardees have certainly helped to spread the ideas of equality, freedom, harmony, peace, love and affection throughout the world,” said Per Omer Dil, a Junior AJA reporter from Sweden.

Junior AJA reporters and AJA staff pose in front of Manhae Awards Ceremony venue Inje Cultural Complex with awardees Abderrahim El Allam and Konstantin Kedrov after the awards ceremony (Photo: Lee Oh-bong)

The Manhae Grand Prize is one of the most prestigious prizes in Korea in the areas of peace, social service, academic excellence, art, literature, and Buddhist missionary works awarded by the Manhae Foundation for the promotion and practice of the late monk and poet Manhae (Han Yong-Un, 1879-1944), the Buddhist reformer and independence activist.

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