Anne Frank honours given to JRS and Scholars at Risk

Seventy years ago, The Diary of Anne Frank introduced the world to an unforgettable voice. Through her diary, Anne Frank illustrated how education engaged and sustained her while she lived in hiding as a refugee in the Netherlands during World War II.

This year, the Dutch embassy in the United States hosted the 2017 Anne Frank Award ceremony in honour of two distinctive leaders guided by the mission to use education to improve the lives of refugees and those who are threatened.

In a ceremony at the Library of Congress last Thursday Father Leo O’Donovan of the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA received the Anne Frank Award and Robert Quinn of Scholars at Risk received the Anne Frank Special Recognition Award. Both were being honoured for their commitment to advocate for the rights of refugees.

Founded in 1980, the Jesuit Refugee Service, or JRS, accompanies those who have become refugees due to conflict, natural disaster, violation of human rights or economic injustice. Access to education is a critical need for forcibly displaced people, and JRS provides educational services from pre-school to higher education, from teacher training to school books.

In higher education JRS has played an important role in the development of 'connected learning' for refugees, in which refugee tertiary students learn together via an online classroom while gathered together at a physical learning centre with on-site support. The course content and academic support is developed by academic institutions and staff in the worldwide Jesuit university network and beyond.

JRS has partnered with Jesuit Worldwide Learning in piloting this model with displaced people in Afghanistan, Kenya, Jordan and Malawi. JRS provides language training as well as preparatory and professionally-oriented skills courses. These prepare students to succeed in Jesuit Worldwide Learning’s liberal studies programme which offers a diploma awarded by Regis University in Denver, Colorado.

Father Leo O’Donovan, SJ, director of mission, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, said: “Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is thrilled to accept the Anne Frank Award. Anne Frank teaches us many things about the plight of refugees through her example and writings. She teaches us about refugees’ resilience, their humanity, their hopes and fears – all aspects we recognise as we serve refugees in 51 countries throughout the globe.”

He said JRS/USA provides refugees with the education, training and support they need to envision and build a better future for themselves and their communities.

“We are so proud to be recognised in Anne Frank’s honour and feel privileged to carry on her legacy in defence of human rights,” Father O’Donovan said

Robert Quinn and Scholars at Risk were recognised for their work to protect scholars and promote academic freedom around the world. Scholars at Risk partners with hundreds of universities in nearly 40 countries to arrange sanctuary for scholars whose lives are threatened.

Since 2000, Scholars at Risk has helped more than 1,000 scholars suffering grave threats to their lives, liberty and well-being by arranging more than 900 positions of sanctuary.

Quinn, executive director of Scholars at Risk, said the organisation is honoured to be recognised with the Anne Frank Special Recognition Award.

He said: “Anne Frank’s story is a lasting reminder of the bond between those facing threats and those in a position to help them. Through her writing she not only shares with us the dignity and humanity of those targeted, but reminds us that our own dignity and humanity demand that we do our part to assist those facing hatred, conflict and oppression, wherever and however we can.

He praised the hundreds of higher education institutions and thousands of individuals participating in the Scholars at Risk Network around the world for stepping forward to support colleagues under threat, including many universities and partners in the Netherlands who had welcomed many threatened scholars.

“We are proud to accept this award on their behalf and through it renew our commitment to protecting everyone’s freedom to think, question and share ideas, freely and safely,” Quinn said.

The Anne Frank Award ceremony was co-hosted with the Dutch Congressional Caucus, and moderated by Dr Katrina Lantos Swett, a member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.

Henne Schuwer, Dutch ambassador to the United States, said: “As the West grapples with the plight of refugees, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and Scholars at Risk lead by example to implement programmes that protect and give new life to those who have been displaced.

“The work of these two institutions should inspire us all to heed the voice of our better angels to aid all we can.”

The advisory committee for the Anne Frank Award comprises the Anne Frank House Amsterdam, the Dutch Congressional Caucus, the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The award was created in 2014 to honour the legacy of Anne Frank, and keep alive the lessons her life teaches us about tolerance and the importance of defending human rights. The Anne Frank Award recognises an American or an organisation working to confront intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism or discrimination, while upholding the principles of freedom and equal rights.