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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
Monsignor Etchegaray and the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mustafa Ceric to receive UNESCO's 2003 Félix Houphouët-Boigny peace prize
Editorial Contact: Roni Amelan, Bureau of Public Information, Press Relations’ Section tel +33 (0)1 45 68 16 50 - Email

24-03-2004 6:30 pm The Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mustafa Ceric, member of the European Council of Religious Leaders, and the Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, former President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, were chosen today as laureates of the 2003 UNESCO Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize by an international jury presided by former US Secretary of State and Nobel Peace laureate Henry Kissinger.

Announcing the jury’s decision, Mr Kissinger declared: “These two religious personalities have been chosen in recognition of their action in favour of inter-faith dialogue, tolerance and peace. The jury believes reconciliation of religious views to be one of the great challenges of our age. This is a particularly important challenge for the country of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the creator of the Prize [Côte d’Ivoire], where the reconciliation of Muslims and Christians is very important if bloodshed is to be avoided. But we have considered the importance of religious reconciliation for the whole of humanity.”

The Executive Secretary of the Prize, Alioune Traore, explained that “by making this choice the Jury sent out a strong signal to the international community in favour of inter-faith dialogue, an essential fundament of peace and understand among peoples and nations.”

Born in Espelette (France) in 1922, Roger Etchegaray was ordained in 1947 and became a Cardinal in 1979. He presided the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 1984 to 1998. Since 1984, he carried out numerous missions to crisis areas for the Pope. He took part, for example, in negociations to end the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in May 2002, and travelled to Iraq in 1986, 1998 and in February 2003.

Born in 1952 in Veliko Cajno (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mustafa Ceric studied at the madrassa of Sarajevo and at El-Azhar, in Cairo. He became the Grand Imam of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, in 1987 after living in the United States. His mosque then became an important intellectual and spiritual centre for the Moslems of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina since 1993, he is a member of the European Council of Religious Leaders, which was established in 2002 and which is an affiliate of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.

The date of the ceremony at which the Euro 122,000 Prize, peace diploma and medal will be awarded is to be determined after consultation with the laureates.

The Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize - created in 1989 and awarded by UNESCO annually - honours people, organizations and institutions which have contributed significantly to the promotion, research, safeguarding or maintaining of peace, mindful of the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitution of UNESCO. The Prize is named after the first president of Côte d’Ivoire, Félix Houphouët-Boigny.

The international jury is composed of eminent personalities including the former President of Portugal Mario Soares, Nobel Peace Laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, and the former French Justice Minister Jean Foyer.

The 2002 Prize was awarded to Xanana Gusmão, President of Timor-Leste. Nelson Mandela and Frederik W. De Klerk (1991), Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat (1993), King Juan Carlos of Spain and former US President Jimmy Carter (1994) are among the former laureates of the Prize.

Source Press Release No 2004 - 29

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