Yusuf Islam Awarded the "Man for Peace" Award

Noble Peace Laureates held their fifth World Summit in Rome aimed at using multilateral dialogue to promote peace. The singer once known as Cat Stevens was awarded the "Man for Peace" Award. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

photo: smallkindness.org
Gorbachev lauds Yusuf Islam (left) as "A Man of Peace"

​​The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates opened with the presentation of a Peace Prize to the 56-year old British musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens.

"The Man For Peace" award is given annually by the Gorbachev Foundation, a socio-economic and political studies center, which organizes the summit every year.

The motivations for the award were read out at the summit: "For having dedicated the most part of his life in the promotion of peace and reconciliation among peoples and for having condemned terrorism."

Donating royalties to 9/11 victims

The Singer, who is chairman of the Small Kindness Charity, was honored for alleviating the suffering of thousands of children in war-ravaged countries, including Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq, for having given the majority of the royalties for his artistic activities to the victims of 9/11 and for his work in favor of the homeless, orphans and AIDS sufferers.

In receiving the award, the singer said he used music as a means to express his ideals for a better world. He said one must move away from selfishness to selflessness and that is not easy in Rock 'n' Roll.

Stevens: "The Noble Peace Laureates are examples of those who have contributed and influenced the course of history by their sacrifices, by their noble virtues for a better world and a more peaceful world. And therefore I am honored to be here today not just as a Rock 'n' Roller but as someone sharing a platform with those noble examples."

In September, the singer was refused entry to the United States on security grounds after his name appeared on a terrorist watch list. He says he was a victim of an "unjust and arbitrary system", and that he has denounced terrorism.

"Cat Stevens' life has not been simple"

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev alluded to the musician's troubles as he presented the award: "Cat Stevens' life has not been simple," Gorbachev said, adding that "every person who takes a critical stance to make the world a better place has a difficult life."

Yusuf Islam, who cut his last pop album in 1978, said he was ready to write more songs to promote peace. He has, however, been criticised for not always speaking out against violence.

In the wake of the fatwah against Salman Rushdie in 1989, for instance, Yusuf Islam refused to comment on Ayatollah Khomeini's verdict which was ultimately a death sentence.

The Rome summit, which ran from 10 to 12 November, will be focused on a variety of issues including the new arms race, the continuos violation of human rights, the economic gap between north and south and the issue of land rights for indigenous people.

The Iraqi situation will also be addressed and for the first time representatives of both the Shiite and Sunni communities have been invited to illustrate their positions.

Twenty-five Noble Peace Laureates are taking part in the summit including Rigoberta Menchu, Lech Walesa and Kim Dae-Jung. In his opening speech Gorbachev proposed establishing a "Charter of the peaceful world" to be addressed to all peoples.

Sabina Castelfranco


World Summit of Noble Peace Laureates
Small Kindness Charity