Dutch Ambassador Rudolf Bekink honored two champions of tolerance and human rights during the inaugural Anne Frank Awards in the Member’s Room of the Library of Congress on Sept. 17.
Ambassador Bekink presented the Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance to Rabbi David Saperstein for his work confronting intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism, and discrimination while upholding freedom and equal rights.
He also presented a second award, Special Recognition for Religious Tolerance and Reconciliation, to the Rev. Canon Andrew White for his commitment to enhance religious tolerance and reconciliation in Iraq and the Middle East.
During his more than 30 years at the helm of the Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism, Rabbi Saperstein has headed several national religious coalitions, including the Coalition to Protect Religious Liberty. He was recently nominated by President Obama to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
Ambassador Bekink presented the Anne Frank Award to Rabbi Saperstein after noting that “in the current world, religious tolerance is more important than ever. As a strong fighter for more interfaith understanding, Rabbi Saperstein deserves this award like no one else.”
Yvonne Simons of the Anne Frank Center USA added that “Saperstein embodies the hope and determination we need to see in our leaders.”
Saperstein said he was “deeply humbled and honored” to receive the award.
In his acceptance speech, Saperstein noted the enduring legacy of Anne Frank’s diary. “Still, we have to remember that Anne Frank’s dream will not happen by itself. Only if good people, moral people, work together can we turn it into a reality. We have to go forward with courage if we want to be the shapers of a better future.”
Canon White, honored for his commitment to enhancing religious tolerance and reconciliation in Iraq and the Middle East through the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, is chaplain of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, the only remaining Anglican church in Iraq.
He was visibly touched as he approached the stage. “I can honestly say this is the most moving award I have ever received,” he said. “It is stories like Anne Frank’s that help drive me further.”
When moderator Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom asked him how he overcame the fear of being targeted as a Christian in Iraq, Canon responded: “Working for peace is never easy, but that is not a reason for me to just give up. Even when there’s no love being showed to us, we have to give people our love. Even if there is evil coming our way, we cannot respond with evil.”
The ceremony was opened by Rep. Bill Huizenga, co-chair of the Congressional Dutch Caucus, who was glad to “celebrate the 400-year relationship between the Netherlands and the U.S., and try to build on it.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, also co-chair of the Congressional Dutch Caucus, added that the values of Anne Frank are shared by both countries. “Together we have to make sure her values are upheld, as we cannot let the hope of Anne Frank vanish.”
Rep. Trent Franks, chair of the International Religious Freedom Caucus, called religious freedom “the cornerstone of true liberty.”
Rep. Frank Wolf, co-chair of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East, built a strong case for freedom of religion, calling for more interfaith cooperation in a time when “we seem to lose our voice in the debate.”
The Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance is part of the Royal Netherlands Embassy’s “Holland on the Hill” campaign, a renewed effort to strengthen the ties between the Netherlands and the United States and highlight the values both countries share with each other.