Dr. Hugh and Shirlann Johnson — 2014
Dr. Hugh G. Johnson, a retired missionary, pastor and former Superintendent of the North African District of the United Methodist Church, and his wife, Shirliann, have been named as co-recipients of the 2014 World Methodist Peace Award.
For more than forty years (1962 – 2005), Dr. Hugh and Shirliann Johnson operated under a simple motto: The church has to be where the needs are the greatest, and this philosophy carried their ministry. As missionaries in North Africa, the Johnsons served during times of great unrest. From their beginnings with the General Board of Global Ministries in Algeria, the couple served throughout the nation during the country’s war of independence and the following turbulences.
Serving first in Laarba Nath Irathen in the Kabyila Mountains and later in Algiers, the couple’s tirelessness and drive to connect the gospel with the lives of the people of the Maghreb region led them to become fluent in Arabic and in Kabylian (a Berber language) as well as preaching in French, Dr. Johnson wanted there to be no barriers between the Word and the people.
In 1972, the Algerian government closed orphanages, hospitals and other diaconal institutions of the church. In response Dr. Johnson helped establish an English-language library, which served as a meeting place for people in the region and an unofficial place for Christian fellowship.
Dr. Johnson also regularly appeared on Algerian Radio, often in dialogue with a Muslim representative. He was a mediator who crossed the lines for the cause of reconciliation and mutual understanding.
Shirliann Johnson often visited refugee camps in the desert, coordinating humanitarian aid and teaching young women to lead kindergarten classes in the camp in order to help children and families who were affected by the war.
As the region dealt with a rising tide of religious extremism, the couple’s home and church were often attacked and targeted by militant groups. Serving a local church (The Protestant Church in Algeria) that was largely comprised of converted Muslims, Dr. Johnson faced restrictions limiting the church’s ability to worship and evangelize. To combat these laws he held meetings in his home between various Christian denominations and worked together in the spirit of ecumenism. His outspokenness and clashes with local authorities over the import of Bibles in Arabic and the Berber languages displayed the courage and willingness to stand up for his faith and church family, often at great risk to himself. Dr. Johnson was stabbed in an attack during this time, but his faith and commitment to his ministry never wavered.
Through numerous disputes with the government and even expulsions from the country, Dr. Johnson always returned to Algeria to help the small Christian community that had formed there. His voice was one that served as a calming influence within the small community of believers in the country as well as an open ear and voice to Muslims in the area. Upon retirement Dr. and Mrs. Johnson left the nation, but their hearts and spirits are still with the people in North Africa.
Marion and Anita Way — 2013
Marion and Anita Way, husband and wife missionaries known for their work in Angola and Brazil are the winners of the 2013 World Methodist Peace Award. The award will be presented on September 12, 2013 at Wesley’s Chapel in London, United Kingdom during the World Methodist Council’s 2013 meeting.
As missionaries in Angola and Brazil, Marion and Anita Way used their faith to assist in the fight against political oppression, racism and other obstacles throughout their career.
In 1958, Marion and Anita served as missionaries in Angola during a time when Methodist churches were routinely accused of instigating the Angolan people to work towards independence from Portugal. In 1961 Marion was arrested, accused of conspiring and working openly in favor of the cause of the independence of Angola. He was jailed for two weeks in a special prison for political prisoners, to be transferred to Portugal. After three months in jail without formal charges, he was released and expelled from the country.
In 1962, the Ways were sent by the General Board of Missions of the Church as missionaries to the First Methodist Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and there they served as Deacons of the Church to the Central People’s Institute (ICP). Marion developed various programs, including helping the poor of that area to develop job skills, such as typing, sewing, English classes and computer skills. Anita was responsible for Christian education, support services to needy children and served as a music teacher. She also created several junior and adult choirs in the community. Throughout their years of service, the Ways were always attentive to societal changes and constantly updated the needs that arose. In 1995, Anita was appointed to the Regional Team Working with the Children’s Area. Since 1983 Marion participated at the Head Office of Projects of the 1st Methodist Conference.
Despite obstacles, challenges and disappointments the Ways never abandoned their ideals in service of God. In those 54 years of continuous work the couple’s work has helped more than 15,000 children and 45,000 families, and more than 100,000 through the outreach that their organizations conduct.
Sadly, Marion Way died in May 2013, but his work alongside his wife Anita in Angola and Rio de Janeiro lives on as a testament to the power of mission. For their half-century of work in mission and bringing dignity and economic empowerment to the poor throughout Angola and Brazil, the World Methodist Council is proud to award the 2013 World Methodist Peace Award to Marion and Anita Way.
Joy Balazo – 2012
Joy Balazo was born in the Southern Philippine island of Mindanao as the youngest of nine children. After a short period in a Catholic convent Joy decided that her life’s work was to be in the midst of the world’s pain and left the convent to enter the challenging world of Human Rights and Peacebuilding. Before coming to Australia in the 1980s, Joy worked with ecumenical and Human Rights organizations in the Philippines.
Joy emerged as a leader in the Pacific region through her peacebuilding efforts alongside the Uniting Church in Australia. For over twenty years Joy has worked not only with the Uniting Church in Australia but also with UnitingWorld, an organization created by the Uniting Church in Australia as an aid organization for the region. Ten years ago Joy established the Young Ambassadors for Peace, acting as their leader and working with local communities to establish eight peacemaking centers in Asia and the Pacific. Joy has also worked to bring together 32 clans in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea that helped end tribal conflicts in the area. She has also worked in the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, along the Thailand-Burma border, Northeastern India, Timor Leste and Bougainville.
In 1999 on the island of Ambon, Indonesia sectarian violence erupted. Christians and Muslims battled through the streets and the entire chain of islands in the province of Maluku, where Ambon is the main city, fighting seemingly engulfed the region. Three quarters of a million people were displaced by the outbreak and an estimated 5,000 lives were lost. Tensions were high and help was needed. UnitingWorld responded to the violence with humanitarian aid and a call for peace between both neighbors and faiths. A peacebuilding organization was established called Maluku Ambassadors for Peace, and at the center of this movement was Joy Balazo.
Joy recently returned to her home in the Philippines to work in Mindanao amongst the indigenous Subanen people of the Zamboanga Peninsula supporting their efforts for peace and sustainable livelihood. The struggle for peace will not be an easy one, but for Joy Balazo it never has been. Her thirst for peace is one that crosses the lines that are sometimes drawn between tribes, between states and between faiths.
Click to view a video of the celebration service.
Rosalind Colwill – 2011
Rosalind Colwill is a trained social worker who in 1980, went to work with the MCN in Uzuakoli, south east Nigeria, at their leprosy center. She worked there for ten years, and during this time became increasinglyconcerned with the number of individuals who were experiencing mental health problems, and as a result destitute and living on the streets. Ros had a vision of a healing community for these people and in 1990, worked to create and develop Amaudo under the auspices of the Methodist Church Nigeria, in collaboration with local communities. Amaudo means ‘Village of Peace’, a name chosen by Ros and it is based in the village of Itumbauzo in South-East Nigeria. Amuado Okepedi: Village of Peace was the original Community Centre for Mentally Ill Destitutes. A community where residents and workers live communally based in a circle around a chapel. It is home for up to 65 destitute and mentally ill people and a base for their rehabilitation and repatriation. Rehabilitation takes place whilst the residents live, work, eat and worship together. Treatment involves counseling, psychiatric medication and workshops in life skills and vocational training. The families of the residents are traced, educated about mental illness and, after a number of home visits, residents resettled into the community. Discharged residents are equipped with the tools to begin their trades at home and their progress is reviewed by psychiatric nurses. There were times at the beginning when Ros was seen as ‘mad’ herself for wanting to live alongside mentally ill people. The creativity with which her vision has brought to mental health care in Nigeria and the inspiration she has provided in attracting others to share in the work with her. The consistency and belief in what they are doing despite difficulties with funding and other problems which has led to hope for people with mental health problems in Nigeria.
The organization Amaudo Itumbauzo helps those who find themselves destitute due to mental health, mental illness or learning difficulties. From its humble beginnings 20 years ago picking up mentally ill, destitute people off the streets of Umuahia, Amaudo now has 6 projects, working in various areas of care, support and education.
Rev. Dr. Jeannine C. Brabon – 2009
The Reverend Doctor Jeannine C. Brabon exemplifies the Award’s criteria of courage, creativity, and consistency, through a remarkable ministry involving difficult and dangerous circumstances. Spanning over 20 years of ministry in Colombia amidst the ‘culture of death” where murder is an offshoot of the drug cartel and drug culture, her story is amazing and inspirational. A Hebrew scholar specializing in Biblical Hebrew and exegesis, Jeannine is a professor at Seminario Biblico de Colombia (the Biblical Seminary of Colombia) and regional director of Colombia’s Prison Fellowship, but her real ministry lies with the inmates of Bellavista and other prisons. Invited nearly 20 years ago by the chaplain to preach in Bellavista Prison, the most deadly prison in Colombia, Jeannine found her life forever changed and enriched when 23 inmates received Christ at the end of her first sermon in the prison chapel. Jeannine requested permission to implement a Bible College in the Bellavista Prison, a prison that had become a violent environment with 50 to 60 murders a month, and earning the nickname ‘the Jaws of Hell.” The leadership of this prison ministry is now composed of ex-prisoners and prisoners themselves who witness to, teach, and mentor other inmates. Jeannine has persevered for two decades, bringing many of the vilest criminals into changed lives by their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Sister Helen Prejean – 2008
Sister Helen Prejean, member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in New Orleans, Louisiana, In 1981 she dedicated her life to the poor of New Orleans, Louisiana and began working prison ministry. While living in the St. Thomas housing project she became pen pals with Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers who was sentenced to die in the electric chair. Upon Sonnier’s request, Sister Helen visited him often as his spiritual advisor. In doing so, she became aware of the execution process in the state of Louisiana. She turned her experiences into a book that not only made the 1994 American Library Associates Notable Book List, but was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1993. Dead Man Walking: an Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States was number one on the New York Times Best Seller list for 31 weeks. In 1996 the book was developed into a major motion picture which received four Academy Award nominations. She educates the public about the death penalty through her lectures and writings and founded “Survive,” a victim’s advocacy group in New Orleans.
Rev. Harold Good – 2007
Honored for his lifetime commitment to peace, justice and reconciliation in his native Northern Ireland, Rev. Harold Good exhibits great physical and spiritual courage in his ministry. As a peacemaker, he has brought together groups from both the Protestant/Unionist and the Catholic/Nationalist communities, forming friendships which built a foundation that played a major role in conflict resolution. As a trusted and respected leader he was asked to be one of two witnesses to the decommissioning of weapons from both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland and played a major role in the unlocking of the political impasse.
His Eminence Sunday Mbang – 2006
As the second Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, the leadership of His Eminence Sunday Mbang is marked by his leadership in peace and unity within his own Church, through the ministries of the World Methodist Council, and through his involvement in ecumenical and interfaith affairs in both his native Nigeria and throughout Africa. His experience and skills as a peacemaker placed him in positions of leadership and significant responsibility within the world Methodist/Wesleyan family. The World Methodist Council became involved in settling disputes within churches, and the Council’s prophetic voice for peace, justice and reconciliation were strengthened significantly under Mbang’s leadership. He was honored for his lifetime example as a man of peace, his uncompromising commitment to principle, his desire to see the Church give leadership in peacemaking, and his commitment to living in peace with both Christians and persons of other faiths.
Lawi Imathiu – 2005
Christian leader, statesman, and pioneer in education Lawi Imathiu was selected to receive the World Methodist Peace Award for 2005. As a pastor, District Superintendent, President and first Bishop of the Methodist Church in Kenya, he saw Methodism grow from 8,000 members in 1970 to over 225,000 members in 2000. In 1974 Lawi Imathiu was nominated as a Member of Parliament of the new nation of Kenya. The only clergy person nominated by the President to Parliament, he served for five years. He has been a strong advocate for peace, justice and reconciliation in his country and around the world. As President of the World Methodist Council, Lawi led a delegation to meet with President Botha of South Africa, delivering the Council’s resolution calling for an end to apartheid and the release of imprisoned Nelson Mandela. A visionary leader in his beloved Kenya, Lawi was the planner and founder of Kenya Methodist University.
Millard Fuller and Habitat for Humanity International –2004
Millard Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity International when he and his wife Linda searched for a new focus in their lives in 1968. They moved to Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and took with them principles of partnership housing which they learned through Koinonia Farms, GA, USA. The result was an international organization that operates in over 100 countries worldwide and has built over 200,000 homes, providing affordable housing for over 1,000,000 persons. Habitat homes are built with volunteer labor which joins Habitat’s vision to eliminate substandard housing and homelessness worldwide. Habitat for Humanity is an ecumenical Christian organization that brings together persons of all backgrounds in the ministry of building homes.
Casimira Rodriguez – 2003
Casimira Rodriguez began working as a domestic worker at the age of 12. Her employers took advantage of her, refusing her visits with her family and failing to pay wages she earned. Through the help of her Methodist Church, she took literacy classes where she met others in similar abusive situations. She began to work with other domestic workers and formed support groups which became a union for domestic workers. She personally collected over 15,000 signatures to introduce a bill into the Bolivian Parliament granting rights and status to domestic workers. The bill became law ten years later and gained international support for the plight of a class of workers previously ignored. For her courage and consistency in the area of human rights, peace and reconciliation, she received the Award in 2003.
Boris Trajkovski – 2002
A Methodist lay preacher, Chairperson of the Church Council of the United Methodist Church in his homeland, and President of that land, the Republic of Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski was honored for his role as a peacemaker in Eastern Europe. Tension during the Kosovo crisis, nearly 300,000 refugees entered Macedonia and a potential civil war was averted under his leadership and stability prevailed. He died in a tragic plane crash in Bosnia 17 months after receiving the Peace Award, leaving a legacy as a dedicated Christian man of peace.
Joe Hale – 2001
As General Secretary of the World Methodist Council for twenty-five years, Joe Hale worked to ensure the voice of the Church was heard in opposition to apartheid, in endeavoring to reconcile national churches in conflict, and in promoting peace with justice in the Middle East. Dr. Hale, in receiving the award, made mention of the previous recipients, receiving the honor in recognition of the idea that all of us can be peacemakers. He is widely known for his concerns over the Middle East and the dream of a permanent peace in that troubled region of the world.
Nelson Mandela – 2000
For his single-minded commitment to peace and reconciliation, and for staying true to his vision of a free and democratic South Africa, Nelson Mandela received the award in 2000. His life has been dedicated to the struggle of the African people. He fought against white domination, and also against black domination. His ideal has been for a society where people live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. It is an ideal for which he has always been prepared to die. No one person in the latter half of the 20th century is more widely known as a symbol of freedom, justice, peace and reconciliation than Nelson Mandela.
Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo – 1999
The first awarding of the World Methodist Peace Award in Latin America occurred in 1999 when the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina were awarded the honor. From 1976 to 1983 actions taken by the government resulted in the disappearance of 10,000 persons, including 500 children, some less than a year old. The movement started with mothers and grandmothers searching for their children who had disappeared. They began to walk around the Plaza de Mayo in front of the Government Palace to protest the violence and deaths occurring in their country. They appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Commission in both New York and Geneva in their effort to learn of the fate of children and bring global attention to the tragedies that were occurring.
Kofi A. Annan – 1998
Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi A. Annan was recognized in 1998 for his role as a reconciler in the arena of international diplomacy. The Ghana native was appointed as Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1996. He was cited for his voice of reason and wisdom in a world which tends to see solutions to conflict more in the use of armed force than careful and intentional diplomacy.
The Community of St. Egidio – 1997
In 1968 a group of Catholic students and young professionals in Rome made a commitment from their Christian faith to serve their society. Andrea Riccardi, the youngest person ever to occupy the The Chair in Christian History at Rome University, framed the servant vision and formed the Community of St. Egidio. They pledged to care for all members of God’s creation through expressions of concern that make for peace. The Community brokered the peace agreement in Mozambique. Today they actively seek to repeal the death penalty worldwide, actively praying for and communicating with every death-row prisoner worldwide. The Community brings inter-faith leaders together regularly for discussions leading to mutual understandings and peace in the world.
Stanley Mogoba – 1996
Once imprisoned alongside Nelson Mandela on Robben Island off of Cape Town, South Africa for his anti-apartheid activities, Stanley Mogoba became a Christian while imprisoned and later became the presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. He was cited for his belief in never invoking violence and for his work in the area of reconciliation in South Africa. He was instrumental in helping the World Council of Churches establish a “program to overcome violence.” He was one of the first leaders in South Africa prior to the end of apartheid to call for an end to hostilities through negotiations.
Father Elias Chacour – 1994
A Palestinian Israeli citizen from Galilee founded the Prophet Elias Community College and called Palestinians and Israelis to live together as neighbors. Father Elias Chacour saw his boyhood home destroyed by bulldozers and explosives, land that for centuries had belonged to his family, yet he remembered being taught by his parents that every person is a child of God. He grew up believing that forgiveness alone brings healing and peace. World leaders have traveled to meet him and learn of his emphasis on peace with justice. He stands for reconciliation in the Church and throughout the world.
Zdravko Beslov – 1992
Appointed as pastor of the Methodist Church in Sofia, Bulgaria, Zdravko Beslov’s opposition to the communist regime brought a swift response and he was confined to prison and work camps for 14 years. He believed in living for truth, and was responsible for the stability of his congregation for over forty years, refusing to waiver in his convictions and his belief that the church would survive and people who were cast against each other would be reconciled. He was instrumental in securing official state recognition of the Methodist Church in Bulgaria. While pursuing this goal, he met face-to-face with his persecutors, saying “I do not want them to be punished nor to be treated as I was treated.”
Barbel Bohley – 1991
Born in Berlin, Barbel Bohley grew up among the ruins of a city devastated by war. She became an advocate for the cause of peace and the struggle for freedom. An artist, she sold her works to aid families of political prisoners. Because of her opposition to the production and storing of arms, and opposing her country’s conscription laws, she was forced to give up her membership in the Federation of Berlin’s Fine Artists, and arrested. Her acts of opposition predated the changes in German society by more than a decade. She contributed to the birth of a new freedom in modern times.
Mikhail Gorbachev – 1990
For his creativity as a catalyst influencing massive global changes through new international initiatives, including the introduction of “glasnost” to the world, and for his work to free religious bodies in the U.S.S.R. from laws restricting the free exercise of religion, Mikhail Gorbachev became the third non-Methodist to receive the Peace Award. He reinforced persuasively the notion that dialogue is always preferable to war. He was cited for his contributions to human understanding, international stability and a changed world.
Gordon Wilson – 1988
A Methodist layman from Northern Ireland, Gordon Wilson demonstrated peace and reconciliation in the face of personal tragedy. In the “Remembrance Day” bombing on November 8, 1987 in Northern Ireland, Gordon and his nurse-in-training daughter were buried under mounds of boulders from the bombing. His daughter died as a result of the blast. Wilson received worldwide attention for his televised story in which he bore no bitterness to the perpetrators. He lived and practiced the rule that “love is greater than hate.” He lived to dispel hatred in Northern Ireland and throughout the world.
Bert Bissell & Judge Woodrow Seals –1987
Hours after the announcement of the end of World War II, British layperson Bert Bissell and 33 youth from his Church Bible class took stones from the summit of Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, to build a Cairn (rock monument) as a tribute to the fallen and an appeal for the perpetuity of peace. It was the first memorial in the UK and remains the highest such memorial in that nation. In succeeding years, the climb up Ben Nevis with Bert Bissell and the Cairn became an international peace memorial. He developed a special friendship with the people of Hiroshima, Japan. He led a Bible Class in his Church for over 62 years. His class produced more Methodist ministers than any group of its kind in the British Methodist Church. He was honored for his remarkably consistent devotion to reconciliation.
United States Federal Judge Woodrow Seals was a co-recipient in 1987. As organizer of a volunteer organization to help the poor, the Society of St. Stephen quickly spread to over 100 Methodist Churches around Houston, Texas. His court rulings consistently furthered human and civil rights, including a landmark decision that enabled children of undocumented Hispanic workers to be educated in Texas public schools. He believed that international peace could only be achieved if concerned persons bore witness to its potential realization in local communities.
Sir Alan and Lady Winifred Walker – 1986
An Australian couple who shared a lifetime of ministry which emphasized moral and spiritual transformation and reconciliation, Sir Alan and Lady Winifred Walker worked as evangelists and emissaries of peace on six continents. Alan Walker believed that the greatest cause of war was that people believed in war. He noted that until slavery as an institution was rejected, slavery remained. He preached that peace would not come as long as the world accepted war as a means of settling human conflict.
Jimmy Carter – 1985
Hailed as “an instrument of peace,” former United States President Jimmy Carter was the first American to receive the award. In accepting the award, he called on his country to be a champion of peace and human rights. He was cited for his leadership in the return of the Panama Canal to Panama, the SALT II agreement, the Camp David Accord between Israel and Egypt, and his post-Presidency efforts in reducing conflict in the world, lifting the plight of the poor, and to promote understanding among all people.
Dr. Tai-Young Lee – 1984
A third-generation Methodist lay woman and attorney, Dr. Tai-Young Lee campaigned for more than 30 years for the restoration of democracy in her native Korea. A staunch advocate for the rights of the poor, she worked to establish human rights in her homeland. Dr. Lee credited her mother and grandmother for teaching her what it meant to be a Christian woman in Korea. She believed in reconciliation and human rights for all, using her training and talents in these areas.
Kenneth Mew – 1982
As a layperson, chemical engineer Kenneth Mew of Zimbabwe left to become principal of the Ranche House College, formerly Zimbabwe College, during a troubled time in its history. Encouraged by the possibilities of the assignment, the situation turned dark as a new government came to power in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), isolating the country from much of the world. The aims of Ranche House College, under Mew’s leadership, were that confrontation need not be the last word and more constructive forces could play a role in shaping the country’s destiny. Ranche House College, under Mew’s leadership, became a neutral ground for mediation, negotiation and confidential and exploratory talks. His influence was significant in extinguishing fires of hatred. Ranche House became a training center for diplomats.
Rev. Donald Soper – 1981
Rev. Donald Soper, a member of the British House of Lords, was an outspoken opponent of the arms race and the resulting international confrontations it brought. For over two generations he was a fearless advocate of peace in the world. He consistently rose above national interests in order to embrace the good of humankind.
Abel Hendricks – 1980
Taking a strong, courageous stand against apartheid resulted in the award being presented to the two-time President of the Methodist Church in South Africa. When apartheid was first introduced, he resigned from his then settlement to move to a parish in which he could minister to Cape coloreds and blacks. Abel Hendricks was himself classified by the South African Government as a Cape colored person.
Anwar Sadat – 1978
For his leadership in working to bridge the strained relationship between Israel and Egypt, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat received the award in 1978. He made a bold initiative in visiting Israel in a dramatic attempt to break the 30 year deadlock in relations between them. A man of deep faith, he fostered goodwill among the religious communities of Egypt.
Sadie Patterson – 1977
A sixty-nine year old trade union and peace movement activist, Sadie Patterson of Northern Ireland received the first award for trying to persuade people to stop killing each other! Just hours after she was announced as the recipient, her grand-nephew was gunned down in northwest Belfast, Northern Ireland, as he drove to his job. Sadie Patterson was a mediator who crossed the lines between both sides in the conflict for the cause of peace.