Yoko Ono awarded five peace awards at a ceremony at Harpa concert and conference hall in Reykjavík this afternoon. Ono grants the LENNONONO Grant For Peace awards every two years to individuals who have made notable contributions to peace and equality.
As reported earlier, the recipients of the awards included singer Lady Gaga, peace activist Rachel Corrie, Russian punk band Pussy Riot, author John Perkins and author/journalist Christopher Hitchens.
The ceremony was attended by friends and family of the recipients as well as public figures in Iceland including former President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and Reykjavík Mayor Jón Gnarr.
In his speech, Jón said that Reykjavík has a unique position in the world to promote peace. Jón said that he hopes that Reykjavík will one day be “completely military-free,” urging the government to block the use of Icelandic airports by aircraft used for war purposes.
Jón mentioned a number of projects which Reykjavík is part of, including the Mayors for Peace 2020 Vision Campaign which aims for nuclear non-proliferation by 2020. He stated that Reykjavík must recognize “its obligation and contribution to promote peace.”
Rachel Corrie's parents, Cindy and Craig, accepted their daughter’s award on her behalf. Corrie died in Gaza in 2003 trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes. Her parents thanked Ono for recognizing the struggle of their daughter and for others striving for peace.
Rachel’s family established the Rachel Corrie Foundation to continue the work she hoped to accomplish. The foundation supports grassroots efforts in pursuit of human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice.
Author, humanist and noted critic of religion Christopher Hitchens, who passed away last year, was also honored with an award. In accepting the award, his wife, Carol Blue Hitchens, praised Mayor Jón Gnarr for his efforts and said she wished there were more leaders like him.
John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, said he felt the world was “experiencing a revolution in consciousness” and hoped that humanity would move from “a death economy,” based on war and destruction of forests to a "life economy.”
He noted the diversity of the recipients, their ages and different backgrounds and the representation of women among them.
Russian punk band Pussy Riot were awarded for their struggle for free speech. Members of the band were arrested for anti-government protest in Moscow earlier this year and remain in prison. The husband of one of the members accepted the award on their behalf in a ceremony in New York last month.
Singer Lady Gaga, who arrived in Reykjavík earlier today, was recognized for her fight for the rights of homosexuals and transgender people and for her efforts towards youth empowerment.
Ono said that she provided a shining example of how someone can use their fame and influence to benefit the world, commenting that many artists are afraid of speaking out on important issues.
Lady Gaga announced that she would be donating her prize money to the Elton John Aids Foundation and would work with them to ensure that the money is directed to disadvantaged youth.
In her speech, she urged people to communicate better to resolve their differences and work towards peace. “You can simply give peace a chance if you breathe compassion,” she said.
“I dare you to be brave enough... be a true rebel,” she added, encouraging people to speak out and use their voice for change. Lady Gaga echoed Hitchens' praise of Jón Gnarr, saying he was “so inspirational.”
Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace Tower will be lit at 8 pm (4 pm ET) tonight. The lighting will be streamed live via webcam.
Zoë Robert/Iceland Review