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S. Yacoobi: Sunhak Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

Address to World Summit 2017, Seoul, Korea, February 1 to 5, 2017


I am very honored to be chosen as one of the 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize laureates along with Dr. Gino Strada. I thank our host, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, members of the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee and my family and colleagues. Let us not forget, this prize established by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, honors and represents the peace ideology of the late Reverend Dr. Sun Myung Moon. Reverend Moon believed we are “one global family.” This is true. We are living in a time where peace, love and wisdom needs to be at the forefront. God’s love does not discriminate by race, ethnicity, nationality or religion. Reverend Moon reminded us of this. We must embrace peace as the road to resolving conflicts, building gender equality and respect for all human beings.

I, myself, became a refugee in 1979 after the invasion of my country. My family all became refugees. I know what it feels like to be in a place where all your rights have been taken away from you. I know how it feels to lose everything you have, including your dignity and self-confidence.

That is why I founded the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), and that is why I have chosen to work with Afghan refugees and to help resettle Afghan refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Afghanistan for the last 26 years. I wanted to find a way to help Afghans rebuild their self-respect and self-confidence; I wanted them to be able to trust again, rebuild their communities and reestablish their core values; I wanted them to be able to live in peace and harmony and have a sustainable way of life.

We are living in a world where people are being judged by religion, ethnicity, race and gender. People are wrongly being labeled and being targeted by hate groups. We must rise above the hate. We must use our voices for good. We need to remove the injustice and eliminate poverty. War is not the answer to any problem. We must work collectively to bring peace in this world. In order to do this, we need to share our knowledge and build a support system that provides sustainable results.

All around the world we see millions of dollars poured into countries to create an environment that does not bring peace or sustainability. The money is given to the government or organizations that have no system in place to progressively develop the country. Sadly, the countries that need the most help are ignored. I truly believe that if we want to make a difference, we must set forth a creative program that involves the people. We must reach out to all community members: women, men and children. We need to give them all the necessary tools in life. We need to address education, health, skills, job opportunities, economics, environment and, above all, human rights as it relates to responsibilities, values, compassion, love and peace.

As I have shared previously with some from the United Nations and European Union, when you give an opportunity to someone and ask them what they know, what are their skills and how much they can give, you would be surprised by the outcome. People want to feel valued. They want their voice to be heard. When they are heard, people gain confidence and want to take an active role in your program to ensure the success of the community and country. From the beginning, you gain an important asset—the support and trust of the people. The human resources of the community will serve as the foundation to build up the community and bring people together.

When you share love, compassion and wisdom, you provide humanity with an indestructible base for living in peace and harmony that no one can take away. You create an environment where everyone respects each other’s rights and appreciates different cultures, traditions, religions and ideas. With love, compassion and wisdom as your base, everyone globally can live in harmony and peace. Thank you all.


Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, Chief Executive Director, Afghan Institute for Learning, Afghanistan

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is the founder and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women-led NGO she founded in 1995. She is well known for her work for the rights of children, women and education. Sakena came to the United States in the 1970s, earning a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of the Pacific in 1977 and a master’s degree in public health from Loma Linda University. 

To go to the 2017 World Summit Conference Schedule, click here.