Light of Truth Awards

The International Campaign for Tibet presents the Light of Truth Award to individuals and institutions who have made significant contributions to the public understanding of Tibet and the fight for human rights and democratic freedoms for the Tibetan people. The award itself is a simple Tibetan butter lamp, symbolizing the extraordinary light that each recipient has drawn to the Tibet issue. The Light of Truth Award is the most prestigious award in the Tibet movement and has been presented each year by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on behalf of ICT.

Award Recipients

2013 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: April 13, 2013; Switzerland

International Campaign for Tibet’s Light of Truth award

International Campaign for Tibet’s Light of Truth award by the Dalai Lama in Switzerland on April 13, 2013.

  • Mr. Robert Ford, the first Westerner to be employed by the Government of Tibet before 1949-50 and given an official rank, for his tireless advocacy on Tibet for more than half a century. Mr. Ford was captured by the Chinese Communists during the invasion of Tibet and spent nearly five years imprisoned subjected to interrogation and ‘thought reform’ and in constant fear of execution. He had been in charge of setting up Tibet’s first broadcasting station and training Tibetan radio operators to establish a radio communications network throughout Tibet. After receiving the award, Mr. Ford said: “I had the great privilege of having my first audience with His Holiness in Lhasa in the early 1940s. He was only 11-years old. I feel so honored to receive the Light of Truth Award from His Holiness almost 70 years later. I am a member of a rather exclusive club of Westerners who have the privilege and good fortune to see, know and witness a free Tibet before 1950. One of the advantages of living a long life like me is that you witness some extraordinary changes, some of which earlier in your life you would never imagine could have happened. This gives me great hope, and I wish with all my heart that we will once again see a return to a free Tibet.”
  • The International Commission of Jurists, an NGO dedicated to strengthening the role of lawyers and judges in protecting and promoting human rights and the rule of law, for its seminal reports and legal advocacy on Tibet. The award was received by Mr. Wilder Tayler, Secretary General, International Commission of Jurists. Mr. Tayler said: “You cannot imagine the outpouring of emails I have received even from very old members of the ICJ and the pride and joy in receiving the recognition of the work of ICJ by the Tibetan community, by His Holiness, by the solidarity organisations. Really it has been so moving. This prize will be dedicated to the late Nick Howen, my immediate predecessor and very dear friend who passed away quite tragically three years ago. Nick was a devoted activist of the Tibet cause; he not only put a lot of hours, he actually put his life at risk when there was need of it in order to pursue the cause, to bring information out of Tibet.”
  • Ms. Sigrid Joss-Arnd, in recognition of the contribution of her organization, the Swiss Red Cross, in rendering continued critical assistance to Tibetans in the diaspora as well as for its humanitarian projects in Tibet. Ms Joss-Arnd, who is in her eighties, was one of the founders in 1960 of the Association of Tibetan Homesteads, which led to her working with Tibetan refugee children as they started to arrive in exile. Ms Joss-Arnd concluded the Light of Truth reception with the following blessing: “May His Holiness be blessed. May the Tibetans in Tibet be blessed. May the Tibetans in exile be blessed. And may they all be reunited soon.”
  • Professor Dr. Christian Schwarz-Schilling, former German Minister and Parliamentarian, known for his international mediation and conflict prevention work through his Schwarz-Schilling Foundation, for his support on the issue of the Tibetan-Chinese dialogue. Professor Schwarz-Schilling said that he felt humbled upon receiving the award, and in his remarks said: “The vision of His Holiness has inspired so many people and his power, the spiritual power, the physical power to [carry out his vision] in that way is giving us all hope.”
  • Professor Theo van Boven, Dutch jurist and Professor Emeritus in international law, former UN Rapporteur on Torture, for putting the spotlight on Tibet within and beyond the United Nations system. Professor van Boven was also an expert member of the UN Subcommission on Human Rights. Upon acceptance of the award, Professor van Boven said living for five years under foreign occupation in Europe had made him aware of the patterns of persecution, and determined to support ending oppression.

ICT Report

2009 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: October 7, 2009; Washington, D.C.

  • Wang Lixiong, the Chinese writer who co-authored and disseminated a petition calling on the Chinese authorities to exercise restraint and caution in their response to the wave of protests that swept Tibet in March 2008. Wang received the award on behalf of all of the signatories to the petition “Twelve Suggestion for Handling the Tibetan Situation.”
  • Julia Taft, who was appointed Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues in 1999 as well as serving on the board of ICT from 2002. Julia Taft passed away in 2008, and her award was received by her husband, William H. Taft IV.

ICT Report

2006 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: June 1, 2006; Brussels, Belgium

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Hergé Foundation and His Holiness the Dala Lama

  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The International Campaign for Tibet presents the Light of Truth Award to Archbishop Desmond Tutu for his leadership in championing the rights of oppressed people in his country and throughout the world. As the first black leader of the South African Council of Churches, Archbishop Tutu was steadfast in providing leadership within the anti-apartheid movement by consistently advocating reconciliation between all parties and urging South Africans to “choose the peaceful way to freedom.” After the fall of the apartheid regime, Archbishop Tutu headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to unearth atrocities, consider amnesty and recommend compensation to victims. In 1984, Archbishop Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the cause of racial justice in South Africa.
  • The Hergé Foundation, The International Campaign for Tibet presented the Light of Truth Award to the Hergé Foundation for upholding Georges Remi’s legacy as the author of Tintin in Tibet. The purpose of the Hergé Foundation is to preserve, protect, and foster the spirit that is alive in the art and which has become an integral part of European culture.

    Tintin in Tibet was Hergé’s favorite and for many around the world their very first knowledge of Tibet has come from the book. Tintin in Tibet was voted the greatest French-language graphic novel of all time in a poll of professionals, editors and critics. The book did not escape Chinese attempts to re-write Tibet’s history. In 2001, the state-run China Children’s Publishing House, which publishes the Chinese versions of the Tintin novels, was required to rectify the cover of Tintin in Tibet by the Hergé Foundation after the Chinese version appeared with the title Tintin in China’s Tibet. In 1994 Casterman published a Tibetan language edition.

2005 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: November 15, 2005; Washington, D.C.

  • Lowell Thomas, Jr. was among the first Westerners to visit Tibet in the last century. His trip there in 1949 resulted in scores of photographs, articles, radio programs and books that brought Tibet alive for millions of Americans. Lowell Thomas Jr. shaped this country’s views of Tibet at a critical time in Tibetan history and is one of the genuine grandfathers of the Tibet movement in America.
  • Carl Gershman has served as the President of the National Endowment for Democracy since its establishment in 1984 and is one of the founders of the World Movement for Democracy. Under his leadership, the NED has grown into the premier democracy promotion organization in the world and has long supported the efforts of the Tibetan leadership to promote democracy in Tibetan society, both in exile and inside Tibet. Previously, Mr. Gershman was Senior Counselor to the United States Representative to the United Nations and served as the U.S. Representative to the U.N.’s Third Committee, which deals with human rights issues.
  • Elie Wiesel is a world-renowned author, political activist, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He is the author of over forty books, the most famous of which, Night, serves as a testimony to his experiences during the Holocaust. The Norwegian Nobel Committee called Wiesel a “messenger to mankind”, for his practical work in the cause of peace and his powerful message of peace, atonement and human dignity. Wiesel is a close friend of the Dalai Lama and teaches at Boston University and serves as the Chairman of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

ICT Report

2004 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: March 12, 2005; Berlin, Germany

  • Václav Havel the former President of the Czech Republic, was honored for his support of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. His action has had significant impact on Tibetans, both in exile and inside Tibet.
  • Mrs. Irmtraut Wäger was honored for her efforts in the past 40 years, which have enabled a sizable population of Tibetans to get access to education and to become self-reliant. These Tibetans are making commendable contribution towards the Tibetan community.
  • Count Otto Graf Lambsdorff and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation were honored for not only for contributing to creating a better understanding of the plight of the Tibetan people, but also for helping strengthen the democratic structure of the Tibetan community in exile.

ICT Report

2003 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: Washington D.C.

  • Robert Thurman, Professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies at Columbia University and President and founder of Tibet House U.S., a non-profit organization in New York City dedicated to promoting the profound wisdom and special art of the Tibetan civilization.
  • Michele Bohana, Director of the Institute for Asian Democracy, and founding member of the International Campaign for Tibet.
  • The Honorable Benjamin A. Gilman, Principal at The Gilman Group, former US House Representative for New York’s 20th District, and former Chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

ICT Report

2002 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: Graz, Austria

  • Petra Kelly, Co-founder of the German Green Party
  • Heinrich Harrer, Mountaineer and author of Seven Years in Tibet

ICT Report

2001 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: New Delhi, India

  • The People of India, accepted by His Excellency R. Venkataraman, former President of India

1999 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: Los Angeles, California

  • Richard Blum, Founder and Chairman of the American Himalayan Foundation; Chairman of Blum Capital Partners, L.P. and Co-Chairman of Newbridge Capital
  • Danielle Mitterrand, President, France Libertes Foundation
  • Hugh Richardson, First British and Indian Envoy to Lhasa, author and historian

ICT Report

1998 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: New York, New York

  • Melissa Mathison, Screenwriter, Kundun
  • Martin Scorsese, Director, Kundun

1997 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: Washington, D.C.

  • The Honorable Claiborne Pell, former United States Senator for Rhode Island and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  • The Honorable Charlie Rose, Former US House Representative for North Carolina

1996 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: Washington, D.C.

  • Richard Gere, actor and humanitarian
  • Michael Currier, philanthropist
  • Lavinia Currier, philanthropist

1995 Light of Truth Award Ceremony: New York, New York

  • A.M. Rosenthal, former editor and columnist for The New York Times
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