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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.

Nansen Biography

Fridtjof Nansen was a scientist, polar explorer, diplomat, statesman and humanist, with a deep compassion for his fellow human beings. In 1921 Nansen was appointed the League of Nations' first High Commissioner for Refugees and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the following year in recognition of his work for refugees. UNHCR established the Nansen Refugee Award in his honour in 1954.

Nansen Biography

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

UNHCR's annual Nansen Refugee Award was posthumously awarded to Senator Edward Kennedy at a ceremony in Washington DC on October 29 for his life-long commitment to refugee rights. Kennedy's wife, Victoria, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband. In presenting the award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, praised the "vision and commitment" of Senator Kennedy in his support for the displaced.

The prize money of US$100,000 will be donated to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, where it will be used to train the next generation of leaders dedicated to the cause of refugee advocacy. The Nansen Award is given to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian polar explorer, scientist and the first global High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

2012 Nansen artists line-up

Singer, songwriter, campaigner, activist, and UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Annie Lennox, OBE will perform at this year's United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Nansen Refugee Award being held in Geneva on October 1st and broadcast internationally.

The line-up, which also includes classical singer and UNHCR Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks, Swiss star Bastian Baker and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Madam Leymah Gbowee, will pay tribute to this year's Nansen Refugee Award laureate.

TV presenter Isabelle Kumar will be the Master of Ceremonies on 1st October. The winner of this year's Nansen Refugee Award will be announced in advance of the award ceremony at 10:30 am on September 18 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

2012 Nansen artists line-up

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.