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The Gusi Peace Prize, aspiring to become the Asian equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize, was awarded this year in Manila, Philippines to 18 people from 16 countries.
The first 2009 Gusi Peace Prize was presented to Lea Salonga, a singer who became the pride of the Philippines after receiving critical acclaim for her role in the Broadway musical Miss Saigon.
Lea Salonga: “The best thing I can do is to continue with the way I have been so far and that is to keep singing and hopefully inspire more people to change and to become agents of positive change in their countries. Hopefully I will be able to influence people to do that.”
An international audience of about 2500 invited guests attended the gala event at Manila’s Meralco Theatre. Millions watched it on TV throughout the world.Barry Gusi serves as Chairman of the Gusi Foundation Board.
Barry Gusi: “I shout to the world, I am committed to work for the peace of humanity and for the friendship of humanity, because I believe this is the hallmark of human values.”
U.S. Congressman Bob Filner from the state of California was honored for his commitment to social justice and racial equality. In the 1960s Mr. Filner spent several months in a southern state’s prison for his participation as an activist in the civil rights movement headed by Martin Luther King.
Bob Filner: “Ιfeel very humbled to be with all these wonderful people who came from 16 different countries. It’s a marvelous collection of people from various areas of endeavor who have been excellent and have promoted peace. I would hope that we would keep an alumni association so we can work for peace in all parts of the world together.”
Another American honored was Dr. Christine Warnke.She secured critical health aid to countries in Africa and gave support to abused women and defenseless children.
Christine Warnke: “After I have met these other recipients I think we are empowered to move forward as a global community to bridge the East with the West. This is something to which I am very much looking forward to.”
From South America, the Gusi Foundation honored Judge Natividad Mercedes Meza, the first woman of the Criminal Appeals Court in Paraguay.
Mercedes Meza: “We help many poor families to ensure that their children will have something to eat, their children will be able to study and their children will have something to wear.”
On the list of Europeans who received a 2009 Gusi Peace Prize was Madame Timi Bakatselos, from Greece.She chairs “Storgi,” a foundation supporting children with cancer.
Timi Bakatselos: “The wonderful ceremony has really moved me. I am very happy of the honor bestowed upon me. This award is very important not just for me personally but also for “Storgi”, the charitable foundation I have established, as well as for my country.”
Another Gusi award winner was Charalambos Lambrou, President of the Larnaca Anticancer Society in Cyprus.
Charalambos Lambrou: “Our Anticancer Society provides services for the prevention of the disease and helps alleviate the suffering of those affected. In addition to treatment, our professional staff gives love and affection to thousands of men and women with cancer.”
Ali Nasuh Mahruki became the first ever citizen of Turkey to receive a Gusi Peace Prize. Mr. Mahruki, a mountain climber, founded the search and rescue team AKUT.His group has saved more than a thousand lives in natural disasters world-wide, including the 1999 earthquake in Greece.
Nasuh Mahruki: “Without hesitation right after that earthquake we went to Athens with the AKUT team to help our neighbors when they needed help because they also helped us when we needed it. So, this volunteer work just made the two countries get together much more and increase the friendship ties among us.”
Violinist Emil Silvio-Ciobota gave an example of his musical talent on the stage of the awards ceremony, following the Gusi Peace Prize reception.
Silvio-Ciobota: “As violinist and conductor of the New Philharmonic of Europe I would like to multiply this message of peace through my concerts all over the world.”
Philanthropist Dr. Alice Chiu, from Hong Kong was one of several prominent Asians honored with Gusi Peace Prize awards.
Alice Chiu: “Of course from now on that I have this so powerful award I would influence more people like me to serve for the common good.”
Other Asians honored were Dr. Liu Chi Chun, of Taiwan, founder of Medical Peace Corps and Dr. Ho Son Fat, expert in urology and laparoscopic surgeries in Macau and China.Gusi awards were also presented to Her Royal Highness Raja Datin Fuziah of Malaysia, and Madame Surapee Rojanavongse, a humanitarian from Thailand.
Russian painter Alexey Steele, known for his large scale works on the themes of Peace and Unity, said that the Gusi Awards were an unforgettable experience.
Alexey Steele: “I am enormously energized. I saw that a dream has no boundaries, something I believed deeply being an artist. Now I feel it with every particle of my body that there is no boundary to a dream.”
The representatives of the 5 continents to the Gusi Foundation have already begun the search for the 2010 Gusi Peace Prize laureates. Their names will be announced at about this time next year, again in Manila, Philippines.