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Media Contact: Emily Sollie, 410-230-2802, 443-220-3269 cell, esollie@lwr.org

Lutheran World Relief to Co-sponsor National Human Rights Award in Colombia, South America

Baltimore, August 28, 2012 — Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is pleased to co-sponsor the National Human Rights Award in Colombia, South America to honor the work of the nation’s human rights defenders. The award is the first of its kind and will be granted annually to one individual and one organization chosen for their outstanding contributions to advance human rights in Colombia.

Dozens of candidates are under consideration for the award, which will be presented September 7, Colombia’s National Human Rights Day, in Bogotá. A diverse panel of judges including a former Nobel Peace Prize winner, human rights lawyers, church leaders and civil society leaders from Colombia, Europe and the United States will determine the award recipients. LWR joins other members of  DIAL (Diálogo Inter Agencial en Colombia), a consortium of international nongovernmental organizations committed to advancing public policies and humanitarian actions to achieve sustainable  development in Colombia, and the European Union in co-sponsoring the event.  

Two LWR partners are candidates for awards: The Empresa Comunitaria Finca Alemania (Alemania Farm Community Business) and Pedro Nel Luna, founder of La Corporación de Desarrollo Solidario (Corporation for Solidarity in Development). The Empresa Comunitaria Finca Alemania represents farming families from Colombia’s Caribbean cost who have overcome forced displacement, violence, the assassination of their leader, and economic hardships to peacefully return to their land and establish successful farming initiatives. And the recently deceased Pedro Nel Luna is under consideration in the lifetime achievement category of the National Human Rights Award. Luna spent decades of his life training and uniting farming communities to overcome violence and economic models which threatened rural livelihoods across Colombia’s Caribbean coast. LWR continues to work with the corporation he founded.

“This award is a chance to celebrate the bravery and the daily dedication of human rights leaders in Colombia who are working under difficult and dangerous circumstances,” explains Zoraida Castillo, LWR’s country director for Colombia.

Colombia is known for violence associated with the nation’s long-standing conflict, but the violence facing human rights defenders often goes unreported. In 2011, 239 human rights defenders were assaulted and, on average, one human rights defender was murdered every 8 days. Human rights and social service organizations are also at risk, with 116 suffering threats of violence or attacks last year. Despite protection efforts from the government and non-governmental organizations, many human rights defenders remain vulnerable to violence in Colombia. Castillo explains, “The National Human Rights Award is an important way to create safe public space to highlight and discuss human rights issues, and to reduce the stigmatization that many human rights leaders face.”

Lutheran World Relief’s support for the National Human Rights Award is an extension of the organization’s efforts to advance the rights of vulnerable communities in Colombia, and help secure important economic and social opportunities for them.

“Successful development projects depend on community involvement and leadership, and when social and community leaders are threatened or silenced as they are in Colombia, local development suffers,” explains LWR’s regional director for Latin America, Michael Watt. “Human rights go hand in hand with poverty eradication in Colombia.”

WHO IS LWR? Lutheran World Relief works to improve the lives of smallholder farmers and people experiencing poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America, both in times of emergencies and for the long term. With the financial support of US Lutherans and other donors, LWR strengthens communities through programs in agriculture, climate, and emergency support. LWR works with partners, supporters and technical assistance providers to achieve lasting results. For more information, visit lwr.org.

Lutheran World Relief is a ministry of U.S. Lutherans, serving communities living in poverty overseas.

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