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Culture

Honored for Taking a Stance Against War

An American congresswoman and a German teacher have been awarded the 2002 Aachen Peace Prize for their critiques of military action against terrorism.

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The Awards Ceremony in Aachen

For taking a strong stance in the name of peace even in the war-frenzied aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, American Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California and Bernhard Nolz, a teacher from the town of Siegen, have been awarded the 2002 Aachen Peace Prize.

According to the chairman of the Peace Prize Association, Gerhard Diefenbach, the two individuals had “continued unswervingly to fight and promote peace,” even as the world careened toward war.

Congresswoman Stands Alone

Barbara Lee was commended for being the lone opposing voice in the 421-member United States House of Representatives when it came to a vote last September giving President George W. Bush sweeping powers to conduct war.

"I speak to you full of sorrow and grief for the victims," Lee said in a speech to the House of Representatives on September 14th of last year. However, she continued, "providing these over-sweeping powers to the president without Congressional oversight could result in any US response spiraling out of control."

For her stance, Lee was bombarded with death threats and had to put herself under police protection.

Due to commitments in Washington, Lee could not be present at Tuesday's ceremony. Her son Craig and her Washington chief of staff Michael Taylor-Riggs accepted the award.

Teacher Faces New Kind of Discrimination

Berhard Nolz also ran into difficulties last September with his insistent calls for peace. In a commemorative speech to students he criticized US policy in the wake of the attacks and spoke out against using military force to fight terrorism. For his comments he found himself pilloried in the local press and was temporary suspended from his job. He was later forcibly transferred to a neighboring school.

"Terror is insanity and makes innocent people its victims, " he said in his acceptance speech. "But war is terror as well."

The Aachen Peace Prize was established in 1988 and gives its annual awards to individuals or groups who work "from the bottom up" to encourage peaceful understanding among nations.

In her address at the award ceremony, author Daniela Dahn emphasized the fact that both recipients had set off intense controversies through their actions. "But attacks aren't proof that someone has done anything wrong," he said, "only that a sensitive nerve has been hit."

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