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Celebrities join forces to honour courageous Congolese nun

News Stories, 8 October 2013

GENEVA, October (UNHCR) British singer Dido and other acclaimed musicians from around the world took part in the recent tribute in Geneva to this year's Nansen Refugee Award winner, Congolese nun Angélique Namaika, as other celebrities used social media to praise the laureate and highlight her work.

Also performing at the presentation ceremony for the prestigious UNHCR award were Grammy Award-nominated musicians Amadou and Mariam from Mali and Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna. The widely read Brazilian author Paolo Coelho gave a keynote address before UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres handed the Nansen Medal to Sister Angélique.

The Nansen Refugee Award honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced. Sister Angélique Namaika, a 46-year-old Roman Catholic nun, was recognized for her key role in helping more than 2,000 women who had been victims of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army in and around the remote town of Dungu in north-east Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Most had been forcibly displaced and suffered abuse, including rape. Through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, the Sister helped them recover from trauma, learn a trade and become self-sufficient.

Global star Dido said it was an honour to meet and play for the Nansen Award winner. "Many of the women Sister Angélique helps have been through the most appalling abuse and to do what she does with so little is humbling," she said. The women and girls who come to Sister Angélique tell her stories of abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape and other human rights abuses.

Amadou and Mariam also had high praise for the winner. "So many families have suffered because of violence in DR Congo and it was an honour to perform for someone who has helped so many vulnerable women and girls. A great evening," they said in a statement.

Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna, who is making a global name for herself, said she was "deeply proud" to have performed at the 2013 Nansen presentation ceremony. "It was a privilege to be part of the ceremony that honours the extraordinary humanitarian work of individuals helping refugees."

Celebrities also took to social media to highlight the achievements of Sister Angélique. These included Stephen Fry, Yoko Ono, Peter Gabriel, Paula Abdul, Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, Luol Deng, Kat Graham, Khaled Hosseini, Iman, Alek Wek, Bastian Baker and Henning Mankell, bringing the Nansen message to an potential social media audience of more than 95 million worldwide.

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie issued a special message to honour the Nansen laureate: "I warmly congratulate Sister Angélique Namaika, this year's Nansen Refugee Award laureate, for her outstanding and truly inspiring work to support vulnerable displaced women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Nansen Refugee Award recognizes her extraordinary contribution and the manner in which she has positively impacted the lives of thousands of displaced people in the DRC. Sister Angélique's work can also help to draw attention to the devastating effects of rape and sexual violence and the need for justice and help for survivors."

Photos from the Nansen Award Ceremony 2013

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The Nansen Refugee Award

The Nansen Refugee Award

Given to individuals or organizations for outstanding service in the cause of refugees.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

2007 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency's Nansen Awards Committee has named Dr. Katrine Camilleri, a 37-year-old lawyer with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Malta, as the winner of the 2007 Nansen Refugee Award. The Committee was impressed by the political and civic courage she has shown in dealing with the refugee situation in Malta.

Dr. Camilleri first became aware of the plight of refugees as a 16-year-old girl when a priest visited her school to talk about his work. After graduating from the University of Malta in 1994, she began working in a small law firm where she came into contact with refugees. As Dr. Camilleri's interest grew in this humanitarian field, she started to work with the JRS office in Malta in 1997.

Over the last year, JRS and Dr. Camilleri have faced a series of attacks. Nine vehicles belonging to the Jesuits were burned in two separate attacks. And this April, arsonists set fire to both Dr. Camilleri's car and her front door, terrifying her family. The perpetrators were never caught but the attacks shocked Maltese society and drew condemnation from the Government of Malta. Dr. Camilleri continues to lead the JRS Malta legal team as Assistant Director.

2007 Nansen Refugee Award

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Burundian humanitarian worker Maggy Barankitse received the 2005 Nansen Refugee Award for her tireless work on behalf of children affected by war, poverty and disease. The Nansen medal was presented at a grand ceremony in Brussels by H.R.H. Princess Mathilde of Belgium and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin.

Accepting the award, Barankitse said her work was inspired by one single goal: peace. "Accept your fellow man, sit down together, make this world a world of brothers and sisters," she said. "Nothing resists love, that's the message that I want to spread."

Sponsored by UNHCR corporate partner Microsoft, the ceremony and reception at Concert Noble was also attended by Belgium's Minister for Development Co-operation Armand De Decker, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, renowned Burundian singer Khadja Nin, Congolese refugee and comedian Pie Tshibanda, and French singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc. Among others.

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Nansen Refugee Award: Pope Francis meets Sister AngéliquePlay video

Nansen Refugee Award: Pope Francis meets Sister Angélique

Pope Francis meets and blesses UNHCR's 2013 Nansen Refugee Award winner Sister Angélique Namaika in St Peter's Square, Vatican City.
Nansen Refugee Award: The Global Refugee CrisisPlay video

Nansen Refugee Award: The Global Refugee Crisis

At the 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award ceremony a moment was taken to reflect on the endless refugee plight.
Nansen Refugee Award: Past WinnersPlay video

Nansen Refugee Award: Past Winners

At the 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award ceremony a moment was taken to remember past Nansen Refugee Award laureates.