Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, BU’s Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and a UNI professor, was presented with the International Campaign for Tibet’s Light of Truth award by the Dalai Lama on November 15 during the Tibetan spiritual leader’s 10-day visit to Washington, D.C.
Also receiving the award at a ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel were Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, and press correspondent Lowell Thomas, Jr., one of the few Westerners to have visited Tibet prior to the Chinese invasion in 1949.
During more than 50 years of occupation of the region, China has suppressed popular uprisings and demonstrations and been accused of human rights abuses. The award honors individuals and institutions who have made significant contributions to the understanding of Tibet’s plight.
Wiesel (Hon.’74), who has taught at BU since 1976, “is a close friend of the Dalai Lama and has been a voice and an activist for human dignity,” says John Ackerly, president of the International Campaign for Tibet. “This is the 10th anniversary of the Light of Truth awards, and so we are particularly proud to honor three individuals who have achieved so much for the Tibetan cause — a great moral leader, a staunch proponent of democracy, and a groundbreaking correspondent.”
In an interview with the International Campaign for Tibet, Wiesel called China’s conduct in the once-independent country “an insult to human decency.” The world-renowned author, political activist, and worker for oppressed people across the globe “doesn’t mince words,” says Ackerly.
In 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called Wiesel “a messenger to mankind” for his practical work in the cause for peace. He is the author of more than 40 books, including Night, which is a testimony to his experiences in Nazi death camps during the Holocaust.
Wiesel has also defended the cause of Soviet Jews, Nicaragua’s Miskito Indians, Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, South African apartheid victims, and prisoners in the former Yugoslavia.
Past recipients of the Light of Truth award include Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, and Claiborne Pell, a former U.S. senator and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
The award-winners were introduced by Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, and Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs and U.S. special coordinator for Tibetan issues. The Dalai Lama addressed those attending the ceremony, and Wiesel spoke on the concept of universal responsibility.