Four world leaders to receive honorary degrees

February 05, 2004, vol. 29, no. 3
By Susan Jamieson-McLarnon

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Four of the world's leading citizens, the Dalai Lama, Shirin Ebadi, Vaclav Havel, and Desmond Tutu, will receive honorary doctoral degrees from Simon Fraser University.

“This convocation is an extraordinary event in the life of Simon Fraser University, the city of Vancouver and its diverse communities,” says President Michael Stevenson.

“Each of our honorees is a visionary, with a life-long commitment to working for peace and reconciliation in response to some of the most challenging political conflicts of our times. Their meeting in Vancouver is an historic event, and SFU is proud to commemorate this occasion by honouring their great achievements.”

The Dalai Lama, religious and political leader of the Tibetan people, received the Nobel Peace prize in 1989 recognizing his efforts to peacefully resolve the political relationship between Tibet and the People's Republic of China. As the 14th Dalai Lama, he and thousands of his followers fled Tibet for exile in India in 1959. Since then he has taken his message of peace and cooperation throughout the world.

Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 recipient of the Nobel Peace prize, is a lawyer and human rights activist in Iran. She is known for her advocacy of peaceful democratic solutions to society's problems and her strong defence of freedom of speech.

She has argued, to the point of imprisonment, for a new interpretation of Islamic law incorporating such human rights as democracy, equality before the law and religious freedom.

Vaclav Havel, a Czechoslovakian writer, who suffered years of hardship and repression for his advocacy of human rights and peaceful political change, led the velvet revolution that brought democracy to his country.

As Czechoslovakia's president, he abolished the death penalty, closed the arms factories, released political prisoners and encouraged social reform and reconciliation.

He was twice elected president of the Czech Republic.

Desmond Tutu was one of those most instrumental in leading the movement to end apartheid in South Africa.

As Anglican bishop of Johannesburg, Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches, and Archbishop of Cape Town, he championed the transition to a non-racial democratic society.

For his leadership in that struggle, Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1984.

Following the establishment of democratic government in South Africa, Archbishop Tutu was appointed to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which allowed for uniquely magnanimous settlements for damages sustained by victims of the crimes of apartheid.

The special convocation will take place on April 20 at 9 a.m. in Vancouver's Christ Church cathedral. Because of limited seating, admission to the cathedral ceremony will be by invitation only.

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