The Secretary of State has awarded the Department’s International Religious Freedom Award to the following individuals in recognition of their courage and commitment to promoting and defending religious freedom globally: Farid Ahmed, Kola Alapinni, Mirza Dinnayi, Peter Jacob, Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, Tali Nates, Lhadon Tethong, and a group of nine Orthodox clergy from Lithuania represented by Gintaras Sungaila.
These advocates have focused on promoting human rights and mutual respect for all in countries including Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, and Nicaragua, as well as protecting the rights of Orthodox Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and members of other religious communities around the world.
Two award recipients are from South Asian ‘desi’ background:
Farid Alam, Bangladeshi Zealander Senior Leader at the Deans Ave Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, has been recognized for his remarkable resilience and advocacy. Having lived in New Zealand for 30 years, Farid became a paraplegic 21 years ago after a tragic incident involving a drunk driver. Despite his physical challenges, he not only serves as a Senior Leader but also works as a homeopath. Since the Christchurch attacks, Farid has become a global speaker, spreading a message of forgiveness and love.
Peter Jacob, an advocate for religious freedom and human rights in Pakistan, has dedicated over 35 years to fighting for the rights of the country’s marginalized religious minority communities. Through lectures, writings, and various forms of advocacy, Jacob has championed the cause of religious minority groups, seeking to secure their constitutionally guaranteed rights to equal treatment and freedom of religion. Notably, he has publicly called for the repeal or reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which have been used abusively to imprison thousands. Under Jacob’s leadership, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has compiled a comprehensive database of blasphemy arrests and prosecutions in Pakistan, documenting over 2,000 cases since 1987, shedding light on vigilante violence and targeted killings of blasphemy suspects and religious minorities.
These prestigious awards, presented as part of the Department’s events commemorating the 25th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act, recognize the pivotal roles played by advocates like Farid Alam and Peter Jacob in promoting religious freedom and human rights on the global stage.