White House Chief of Staff Archon Reince Priebus to be Keynote Speaker
Emilia Kamvisi, an 86-year-old grandmother, and Efstratios Valiamos, a fisherman, both from Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos, will receive this year's Athenagoras Human Rights Award presented by the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, at the organization's annual banquet Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 at the New York Hilton Hotel. The evening's keynote address will be offered from a "son of Mytilene," White House Chief of Staff Archon Reince Priebus, whose mother's family hailed from the Greek port city.
The women and men of Lesbos, along with their compatriots on other islands in Greece, have been selfless in taking on the role of rescuers and receivers for the flood of refugees who have arrived on their shores after escaping conflicts in the Middle East. Kamvisi and Valiamos were chosen for the award because of their own efforts and to represent all volunteers who have helped refugees in this time of crisis.
Kamvisi had been among three people nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize after a photograph was taken as she and two friends, ages 89 and 85, bottle-fed a Syrian baby who had survived the dangerous boat journey from Turkey. The photograph went viral on the internet. Valiamos was also nominated for the Nobel prize for his role using his fishing boat in saving dozens of refugees from drowning.
"The world has looked on at the courage and compassion of these rescuers who have risked their own lives and livelihoods trying to save children, women and men from overloaded smuggling boats in the frigid waters of the Aegean sea, and aiding and comforting those refugees fortunate enough to wash ashore," said Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander of the Archons, in announcing the award decision.
Both recipients remain humble despite the praise they have received for their courage and dignity. "People say "You're a hero," but this isn't heroism, it's the normal thing to do," Valiamos has been quoted as saying. "When you're fishing and a boat is sinking next to you and they're screaming for help, you can't pretend to not hear them."
"What did I do? I didn't do anything," Kamvisi was quoted as saying after she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Award will be presented by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America along with National Commander Limberakis.
Past recipients of the Award have included Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel, Mikhail Gorbachev, Admiral James Stavridis, Vice President Joe Biden and last year's recipient, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
The Award is named in memory of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, who served in that capacity from 1948 until his death in 1972. Prior to his selection as Ecumenical Patriarch, Athenagoras served as Archbishop of North and South America.
Established in 1986, the Athenagoras Human Rights Award is presented annually at the Order of Saint Andrew's grand banquet to a person or organization that has consistently exemplified by action, purpose and dedication concern for the basic rights and religious freedom of all people Visit archons.org/AthenagorasAward