Bishop John K. Yambasu
Recipients of the World Methodist Peace Award for 2020 and 2021 are announced by World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams. “This Award is given annually by the World Methodist Council to individuals or organizations who have contributed significantly to peace, justice and reconciliation,” Bishop Abrahams said, “and it is a privilege to announce these two outstanding individuals for their untiring efforts.”
The recipients were chosen at the Council’s Steering Committee meeting held in August. The Committee did not choose a recipient last year, so both the 2020 and 2021 recipients were named this year as the Committee met virtually.
Both men have boldly worked for peace and in their respective areas of the world but have also been instrumental in inspiring others to work for peace globally.
The late Bishop John K. Yambasu, the 2020 Peace Award recipient, was chosen for being a courageous peacemaker in his home country of Sierra Leone and across the United Methodist connection for many years. He provided critical leadership during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and the 2017 mud landslide, both of which killed thousands of his fellow citizens. He was known for choosing to speak truth, even in difficult situations, while at the same time living peaceably with all people and was a role model to the United Methodists in Africa and across the connection, his nomination stated.
Bishop Yambasu grew up in poverty and is quoted as having said, “I know through and through what poverty is. I have slept with it and I have woken to it. Countless times, I went to bed without food. I have not only experienced poverty, but for almost ten years I had to wrestle with it. Today in Sierra Leone, I live side by side with poverty and misery.” He then said, “I am totally fed up!…We need to embrace each other” Red and yellow, black and white, poor and rich, have and have-nots, gay or straight, bisexual or homosexual, polygamists, we all need to engage each other… We need to torment God with our prayers and give us sleepless nights until we can look at each other in the face and say, ‘We are brothers and we are sisters’.”
The Bishop was creative in thought and action and
was consistent throughout his life. He served the
people around him as the focus of his call to ministry. He was a leader in the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign, the Ebola crisis, and COVID-19 pandemic. He was a teacher to young people, founder of the Child Rescue Center, and shortly before his death in an automobile accident, was elected Chancellor of Africa University.
His nominees said that Bishop Yambasu was a man of peace: peace for those living with illness, peace for children struggling in poverty, peace across nations and continents. He exemplified the best in Christian peacemaking.
The Rev. Olav Pärnamets of Estonia was named to receive the 2021 Peace Award. His contribution to world peace began with Europe in the second half of the 20th century. The tiny Baltic country of Estonia enjoyed less than a quarter of a century as a free republic during the first half of the 20th century. Still, during that time, the Methodist Church planted roots and grew. Born in 1937, Rev. Pärnamets spent most of his childhood and adult ministry under the strict and oppressive control of the Soviet Union, his nominees explain. Yet, this man served as a pastor and district superintendent, displaying great courage when the government of Estonia oppressed those who even participated in religious activity. Worship, theological study and evangelical activities were suppressed with the threat of punishment. But he traveled the world to share about the faithfulness of the people called Methodists in this Baltic country.
One of Rev. Pärnamets greatest strengths is creativity. With little to no money and Big Brother watching, he led by faith, and his unique ability to bring together people from different cultures, nations and backgrounds is evident in the vital Estonian church.
“Whether challenged to abandon God for the state as a child, to give up his Bible while conscripted in the military, or faced with needs and not enough resources, Rev. Pärnamets has always leaned on God’s grace,” said his nomination. His actions as a child, a youth worker, a deacon, pastor, superintendent and ecumenical leader are evidence of his life-long peace efforts. His vision of a Baltic Mission Center became a reality through the generosity and friendship of people he influenced worldwide. There is a Baltic Theological Seminar that equips and sends clergy all over Europe. More than 90 percent of todays’ clergy in Estonia were educated there. Retiring in 2014, Rev. Pärnnamets remains active.
“The Peace Award is the highest honor of the World Methodist Council,” Bishop Abrahams explains. The criteria for the Peace Award are courage, creativity and consistency in one’s witness to peace, justice and reconciliation.
Previous recipients of the award include, among others, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, Nelson Mandela, Boris Trajkovsky (Macedonia), Father Elias Chacour, The Community of St. Egidio (Rome) and the Grandmothers of the Plaza De Mayo (Argentina).
More information on the 2020 and 2021 Peace Award recipients will be available when the public presentations are made. The dates for the presentations will be announced when available.
Rev. Olav Pärnamets