Pacem in Terris awarded to fight against hunger

Nov. 18, 2004
By Keith Claussen
Online Editor

The St. Ambrose community hosted the presentation of the 2004 Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award to Rev. Arthur Simon last week.  The presentation took place in the new ballroom of the Rogalski Center in front of a capacity crowd.

Simon was chosen at the 35th recipient of the prestigious award for his work in fighting international hunger.

“I am humbled to be associated with Pope John Paul II,” said Simon.  “He is someone I have always admired.”  Rev. Simon is a minister in the Lutheran Church.

Simon held up the award presented to him by Bishop William Franklin as the crowd gave a standing ovation.  Simon thanked everyone for the welcome and also stated that the award was a tribute to all that have worked for peace and freedom all over the world.

Bread for the World, the organization Simon founded in 1974, has a current membership of over 50,000 and is in several countries.  He cited that there are still 27,000 children that die from hunger everyday.

“We’ve made significant progress,” said Simon. “But we have a long way to go yet.”

President Rogalski addressed everyone with a welcoming speech, referring to Simon as an “advocate for social justice.”  He told everyone that the purpose of the award was to honor individuals all over the world for their leadership in advocating for social change.

The Davenport Catholic Interracial Council first presented the award in 1964.  This award is in honor of Pope John XXIII and his encyclical letter, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), calling on everyone worldwide to secure peace between all of the nations.

Among the list of laureates include the first recipient President John F. Kennedy (1964, posthumously), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1965), Dorothy Day (1972), Mother Teresa (1976), Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (1985), Cesar Chavez (1992), and Sisters Dorothy and Gwen Hennessey (2002).

Sister Hennessy was present during the ceremony.  Student Kaba Kayembe joined her in a tribute to all of the past recipients.  Members of the audience stood and read brief biographical notes for each person while candles were lit in tribute of those names being honored.

Simon was born in Eugene, Oregon in 1930.  His brother is the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois.  He is a graduate of Dana College and Concordia Seminary.  Simon is ordained in the Lutheran Church and was pastor from 1961 to 1972 at Trinity Lutheran, in New York City.  He was president of Bread for the World from 1974 to 1991.  Simon then became the director of the Washington Children’s Christian Fund office until 1997.  He currently serves on the board of directors of the foundation he helped create with a coalition of Catholics and Protestants 30 years ago.

Hunger was not the only issue that Simon spoke about.  He also spoke on issues of justice, crime, terrorism, war, and peace.

“We are tough on crime,” Simon said, “but fear we are not smart on crime.”  He advocates rehabilitation and treatment of convicted criminals instead of spending billions of dollars building prisons.

Simon contested the 900 billion dollars spent annually, worldwide, compared to the amount that we spend fighting hunger and poverty.

“We spend only a pittance on helping the poor all over the world,” Simon argued.  His belief is the United States could help more because the U.S. is last in donations, compared to the gross annual income of 20 other nations helping fight poverty.

In his closing comments, Simon urged the audience to write to their congressional representatives to fund “The Millennium Challenge,” an initiative set forth by President George W. Bush, which pledged five billion dollars by the year 2004 to aid in the fight against poverty.

Simon does not want to see hunger continue to be “the silent holocaust.”

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Updated: February 12, 2005 7:31 PM