“Voices” recognizes individuals committed to the defense and promotion of peace, human rights, justice and dignity in their life trajectories. There are twelve stories full of values and teachings that inspire and motivate our effort.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born into a Catholic family in the Balkans. She was determined to follow her religious vocation, at the age of 18 she entered the House of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto, Ireland. From there she left for India, where she made novitiate and vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, adopting the name Teresa. In 1946, she heard an inner call that prompted her to leave the convent and live among the poor of Calcutta. She got Indian nationality, started wearing white sari with blue trim and a small cross on her shoulder. She asked for help on the streets to assist the poor, sick and hungry, raising supporters to the cause. Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity and more than 600 missions throughout India and in more than 100 countries. In 1979, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for services rendered to humanity. She died at the age of 87, and in 2003 she was beatified by Pope John Paul II. read more
At the age of 23, Sergio Vieira de Mello conducted the repatriation and integration of thousands of refugees on behalf of UNHCR after the proclamation of Bangladesh's independence in 1971. It was the first of many field operations during his 34-year career, and he was responsible for repatriation processses of refugees or peacekeeping in places like Sudan, Mozambique and East Timor. A skilled negotiator, he held various positions at the UN until he was appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2002. With the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Vieira de Mello as his special representative in Baghdad, where he was the fatal victim of a terrorist attack at the UN headquarters. In all the conflict zones in which he acted, he showed commitment and concern for the dignity of the victims of wars and humanitarian crises. read more
Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen pioneered international refugee action. When appointed by the League of Nations as the first High Commissioner in 1920, he was responsible for defining the legal status of those displaced by the civil war in Russia and arranging for their integration into the host countries or their repatriation. He created what would become the basic structure of UNHCR and organized an international conference which resulted in the creation of the "Nansen passport". Until his death in 1930, his responsibilities also covered Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, Armenian, and other refugees. In 1922, Nansen's work was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1954, UNHCR has awarded the Nansen medal annually to individuals or groups of people who have provided exceptional services for refugees, perpetuating Nansen's courage and compassion as inspiration. read more
Son of a German immigrant family, Cardenal Paulo Evaristo Arns is an emeritus archbishop from São Paulo and one of the most important figures of the Catholic Church in Brazil, due to his intellect, his commitment to the poorest, and especially to his defense of human rights during the military dictatorship. Arns vigorously fought political torture, defended refugees, students, journalists, trade unionists, and other persecuted types, and acted in cooperation with human rights activists, exiles and the UN to bring to the Vatican summit warnings about military regimes in the Southern Cone. In 1985, he received on behalf of Caritas Archdiocese of São Paulo the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award, in recognition of the institution's efforts to support and care for asylum-seekers and refugees. In the same year, he created the Pastoral of Childhood with Sister Zilda Arns, who died in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, where she performed humanitarian work with children. read more