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Political initiatives in Germany and Italy awarded Aachen Peace Prize

This year's Aachen Peace Prize has been awarded to an Italian demilitarization initiative and a German youth network. The prize celebrates people and groups whose grassroots movements promote peace and trust.

The Italian initiative No Muos and German youth network JunepA were honored for their political activism on Friday during the Aachen Peace Prize award ceremony.

No Muos, based in Sicily, has been calling on the Italian government to shut down NATO and US military bases on the southern Italian island. Founded in 2009, the group's main focus has been the shuttering of the US military's new satellite communication system, known as Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), which has been installed at a number of bases across Sicily.

The group claims that US military surveillance systems are undermining world peace, as well as damaging the surrounding environment and locals' health.

The Aachen Peace Prize jury honored Muos for fighting against plans "to expand Sicily as an outpost for high-tech borders and to militarize the Mediterranean Sea."

Germany's JunepA youth group, founded in 2013, describes itself as "a network for young people wanting to coordinate creative initiatives to bring about political change." Among its most important initiatives in the past year was a protest at Büchel Air Base, the last location in Germany where US nuclear weapons are known to be stored.

Read more: The last nukes in Germany

In 2015, the group also occupied a military training center in Altmark, organized blockades and rallies at the G7 summit in Bavaria and unveiled a large banner down the Berlin's Victory Column during the Paris climate summit (pictured below).

Deutschland Berlin - Siegessäule als Protestplattform (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Zinken)

JunepA protestors scaled Berlin's Victory Column to unveil a banner reading "Climate Justice Now"

Along with the prize, both groups also received a  symbolic cash prize of 1,000 euros ($1,186) award, which is intended to go towards the supporting the groups' initiatives.

According to the jury, JunepA earned the award for its "creative approaches to civil disobedience" and habit of turning up "in heated situations where a helping hand is always needed."

'Peace through righteousness and humanity'

The Aachen Peace Prize has been awarded to people and groups that have promoted peace in their immediate surroundings since 1988. The committee defines its mission as "honoring those who have achieved peace through righteousness, humanity, and even the willingness to help their opposites."

The prize is handed out each year on September 1, which falls on German anti-war day. 

The first sponsors of the prize were Protestant pastor Werner Sanss and Jutta Dahl, who organized sit-ins at various NATO bases in the early 1980s to protest the military alliance's decision to increase its nuclear stockpile.

Previous winners include Turkish human rights lawyer Eren Keskin and the German refugee aid organization Pro Asyl. Last year, a group of some 1,000 Turkish academics received the award for calling for an end to Turkey's conflict with Kurdish troops.

The Aachen Peace Prize is supported by around 50 religious, political, trade union and social groups, as well as some 350 individuals who make the up the prize committee.

Watch video 00:49

Peace without doves

dm/sms (KNA, epd, AFP)

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