Dr. Widad Received Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award

Dr. Widad Received Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award


Oslo-Iowa, October 30, 2017 – Dr. Widad Akreyi, co-founder of Defend International, was presented with the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award by Bishop Thomas Zinkula. She became the youngest recipient of the Pacem in Terris Award and the first Pacem honouree to receive a medal from the mayor of Davenport.

On October 22nd, the Most Reverend Thomas Zinkula, Bishop of Davenport, presented Dr. Widad Akreyi, a global champion on the plight of the persecuted in the Middle East, with the 47th Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in light of her “lifelong commitment to peace and justice.

The Award, which is named to honor Pope John XXIII, was given at a ceremony held at St. Ambrose University, Christ the King Chapel in Davenport, Iowa, USA.

You have worked tirelessly for peace and justice and advocate for human dignity for all in the Middle East, said the Most Reverend Zinkula before presenting the award. Your mission has been to save lives, alleviate suffering and promoting peace and equal rights and opportunities for all. Your fearless documentation of torture and other human rights violations, as well as your pursuit of justice through medical research and the monitoring of peace initiatives. Your findings regarding crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing have brought horrific acts to light for all the world to see. You embody the words of Pope John XXIII in his encyclical Pacem in Terris a spark of light, a center of love, a vivifying leaven to your brothers and sisters around the world.”

As the first woman born in Kurdistan, in the heart of Mesopotamia to be awarded this award, I am tremendously honoured by this recognition, Dr. Widad said after accepting the award.

Co-founder of Defend International became the youngest recipient of the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award and the first Pacem in Terris honouree to meet the mayor of Davenport and to be presented with the Davenport medal by the Honorable Frank Klipsch during a private social meeting with local medical professionals.

Established in 1964, in commemoration of the 1963 encyclical letter Pacem in terries (Peace on Earth) of Pope John XXIII, the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award is awarded “to honor a person for their achievements in peace and justice, not only in their country but in the world.” Previous recipients include President of the United States John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Dr. Widad donated her honorarium from the Award to the Congregation of the Humility of Mary.


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Dr. Widad is a preeminent humanitarian and human rights defender. A winner of several awards, the renowned champion of justice and gender equality has become a global voice for the voiceless, first and foremost the women and girls abducted, sold and enslaved in the Middle East. Originally from Kurdistan, Widad now lives in the West and holds a Master’s degree in genetics and a PhD in global health and epidemiology. Her historic novel, The Vikings Kurdish Love: A True Story of Zoroastrians Fight for Survival, is relevant and relatable to current events. For more information please visit Dr. Widad’s website at widad.org


On October 21st, 2017 Dr. Widad Akreyi was presented the Davenport’s Medal for her lifetime contribution to defending human rights and dignity for all in the Middle East.


The Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award has been awarded each year since 1964 in commemoration of the 1963 Encyclical letter “Pacem in Terris” of Pope John XXIII that called on all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. The award was created by the Davenport Catholic Interracial Council of the Diocese of Davenport in the US state of Iowa, and since 1976 has been presented by the Pacem in Terris Coalition. The first Pacem in Terris award was given to John F. Kennedy in 1964.  Since then it has included such notables as the activist Dorothy Day and religious figures such as Blessed Mother Teresa.

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