Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA)
www.asiapeace.org & www.indiapakistanpeace.org
4410 Verda Lane NE, Keizer, OR 97303

PRESS RELEASE

October 18th, 2005

Contact Person:
Dr. Pritam Rohila, Executive Director, ACHA, 503.393.8305, pritamr@open.org

Awards Ceremony Celebrates Making a Difference Locally and Worldwide

The Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA) celebrated their twelfth anniversary with an annual awards ceremony on October 15th, 2005. Fifty participants came together to hear about ACHA’s accomplishments in the last year and to recognize unsung heroes with two awards.

Make a Difference Awards were given to Monika Arora and Salma Ahmed, both of Portland, Oregon. Arora, a second year medical school student at OHSU was nominated for her outstanding work in promoting Indian culture in the Portland area. Ahmed, a founding member and current president of the Islamic Society of Greater Portland was nominated for her relentless work in outreach to the broader community, organizing interfaith dialogues and promoting education for youth.

The ACHA Star Award for Peace and Harmony is meant to recognize individuals and organizations, which have made significant contribution to peace in South Asia, and/or harmony among South Asians. This year the award was granted to five individuals from the countries of India, Pakistan and South Africa. These international recipients sent their acceptance speeches by email and were read at the awards ceremony.

In India, the award was granted to Yernagular.V. J. Rao and Shabnam Hashmi. Rao from Bhubaneswar, Orissa, is the Secretary of the Interface Foundation and was nominated for organizing communal dialogue in sensitive areas of India, especially following the murder of the Christian missionary Graham Stains, and the Godhra tragedy. Hashmi, founder of Anhad, and a community organizer from New Delhi was nominated for years of her work against communalism and the politics of hate in India. In her acceptance speech, she wrote that as a child she was deeply influenced by the stories of Anne Frank and Zoya, and realized that injustice anywhere was wrong.

The award recipient from South Africa is Ashok Ramsarup the Senior Producer at Lotus FM, South African Broadcasting Corporation. Ramsarup was nominated for his work in promoting people to people interaction between the Indian and Pakistani communities in South Africa. Ramsarup has also used media advocacy as a powerful tool to lobby pressure on governments of India and Pakistan to move the agenda forward of people’s movements demanding visa free and borderless South Asia.

The Pakistan recipients are Saeeda Diep and Dr. Rev. Bonnie Mendes. Diep of Lahore is a long time activist who helped organize the historic India Pakistan Peace March, from New Delhi, India to Multan, Pakistan, from March to May 2005. Dr. Mendes of the Human Development Center in Toba Tek Singh, was nominated for over forty years of service that he has given toward interfaith peace and justice work. He flew to Oregon to personally receive his award. His travel expenses were paid by his Muslim friends at Action Aid. In his acceptance speech he encouraged the audience to “join hands and hearts to build a better world.”

ACHA is an Oregon, USA-based organization, which is dedicated to promote peace in South Asia and harmony among South Asians everywhere. More information about ACHA can be found on its two websites www.asiapeace.org & www.indiapakistanpeace.org

(This report was prepared by Afifa Shafi-Ahmed, ACHA’s Director for Community Organization and Media Relations)