Peace, science, cooperation and solidarity were the words pronounced most at a ceremony that honoured TWAS Executive Director Mohamed Hassan with the 2017 Cinzia Vitale Award under the patronage of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
The prestigious initiative where Hassan was among the guests of honour was celebrated 30 March during the Gran Galà di Primavera Vitale Onlus in Trieste, Italy. The Galà di Primavera has been celebrated annually since 2012. The event is organized by the Associazione Cinzia Vitale Onlus, through its president Roberto Vitale, to commemorate his sister Cinzia, a promising young woman who passed away prematurely.
"The Cinzia Vitale Onlus Association has a precise mission: to give life to some dreams," said Roberto Vitale. "For this reason, we are very sensitive to acknowledging distinguished personalities who promote, sustain, disseminate and help build international cooperation and growth, through initiatives oriented to the advancement of social and human well-being."
In remarks to the audience, Hassan said it is important for Trieste's international science institutions to have a strong bond with the people of Trieste. And, he added: "At TWAS, we share the vision and values of the Foundation and its president, Roberto Vitale – people in every country have a fundamental interest in health, prosperity and peace. For that reason, I am deeply honoured by this recognition of my work, and the Academy's work."
Hassan is among the founders of TWAS and of the so-called Trieste System. During his first visit to Trieste as a smart mathematician, in 1976, he met Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, a future Nobel prize (1979) in physics. Salam asked him to take part in his visionary dream, building an academy dedicated to science and development in countries in the South of the world.
Since 1983, when TWAS was established, Hassan has been an extraordinarily effective and committed ambassador of sustainable development, disseminating the values and principles of TWAS around the world.
He gave his contribution and ideas to the establishment of the so-called Trieste System that today includes the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD); IAP, the global network of science academies; the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA); the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB); the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP).
Hassan has also maintained constructive relationships with the government of Italy and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), which have provided sustained support to the Academy and its programmes.
He received the Cinzia Vitale award, so reads the citation, because he is an influential scientist who served for 25 years as TWAS's Executive Director, disseminating seeds of peace worldwide, promoting knowledge, science and solidarity. Besides, he's been an active advocate of science as an international tool and a gift for mankind.
"TWAS is a very important organization in the system of the UN organizations, with some 1,200 members, 80% of whom are from developing countries," Hassan told the audience. "We have 11 scientists from Italy. TWAS's added value stems from being an academy of individual scientists, which includes also 15 Nobel Prize winners."
"One of the most important goals we have is to promote international collaborations, especially among scientists from different countries and cultures," he added. Then he mentioned what is currently one of the Academy's flagship programmes.
"In 2012, we launched the new Science Diplomacy programme, in partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Through this programme we bring together scientists from countries that sometimes have political tensions, countries that sometimes don't talk to each other. At a very recent meeting, for example, we had scientists from countries that have civil wars or unrest, such as Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan."
In handling the prize to professor Hassan, president Vitale said: "We have established this prize to acknowledge illustrious people who have offered unceasing commitment, time and work to promote knowledge, science, solidarity across countries and peoples."
Then he explained how his foundation, which has been established along with his mother to remember his beloved sister Cinzia, aims to give life to some dreams, and to give voice to those who don’t have it.
The "Premio Cinzia Vitale 2017" that Hassan has received consists of a diploma and a silver coin worth of 500 old Liras, which has been coined in 1964, the year when Cinzia Vitale was born. The Italian Republic, explained Luisa Venturin who chaired the event, has produced only two silver coins meant for circulation: 1000 Liras/Roma Capitale and the 500 Liras.
The Vitale family opted for this coin because of its great symbolic value: on one side there are three Caravels with their bow heading right. Italian medal carver Guido Veroi, to represent the economic renaissance of Italy during that decade, has carved them. The backside offers the bust of a woman dressed in renaissance clothes: the model was Letizia Savonitto, wife to Pietro Giampaoli, who has carved the second side. 19 regions or chief towns, including Trieste, surround her bust.
The Gran Galà offered also musical entertainments. Sofia Vitale, the young and promising daughter to Roberto Vitale delivered a Jewish poem on peace, and played two piano passages.
The event gathered in the audience a number of influential personalities who act at the global level as peace ambassadors, bringing contributions to peace, well being of youth and prosperity in general.
Among them, were the representative of the major monotheistic religions who moved together to the podium offering an example of love, peace and tolerance. They were rabbi Ariel Haddad for the Jewish community; archimandrite Gregorios Miliaris for the Greek-Orthodox community; protopresbyter Raško Radović for the Serbian community; father Roberto Rosa from the Diocese in Trieste and the Imam Nader Akkak for the Muslim community in Trieste.
Together they formed the jury who awarded Jewish student Roey Offerta and Palestinian student Monia Alhelou the 2017 Nelson Mandela Grant for Peace. Both Offerta and Alhelou are young students from the United World College of the Adriatic (UWCAD), a part of the United World Colleges, a global educational movement that brings together students from all over the world with the aim to foster peace and international understanding.
This year Nana Konadu Yiadom Gyata, a leader of the Ghanaian community in Italy, was in the audience to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Ghana's independence from the UK. "Our Ghanaian community feels honoured for the consideration received from the Vitale Onlus Association on this important Ghanaian anniversary," Yiadom Gyata said. "The Gran Galà di Primavera, which is held under the aegis of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, bestows an honour on my people, who is taken as an example
Then he added: "Meeting professor Hassan from TWAS has also been a great honour. Hassan is renowned worldwide as an exemplary scientist: he must be taken as an example for those who work to build peace in the world. The same peace that my friend Roberto Vitale is building through this initiative."
Other award recipients were: Ms. Valentina Bach, for her work as UWCAD secretary general; Igor Coretti Kuret, as the director of the "European Spirit of Youth Orchestra"; 2007 Nobel Prize Filippo Giorgi, from the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, for his scientific contributions; Ms. Rita Calderini, for assisting Ghanaian women in building self-respect and personal care.
At the end of the celebrations, Roberto Vitale recalled how the Cinzia Vitale Onlus has always worked hard to promote and acknowledge people who believe in well being of youth and of their families, through promotion of historical, artistic, literary knowledge, photographic, musical arts.
"Today we shared a lot," he noted. "We shared brotherhood, tolerance, peace, cultures. We have witnessed how cohabitation is possible even among nations that are on war. Trieste is the ideal place for all this, where miracles such these do happen every day."
Then he concluded: "Our efforts are carried out at the international level, through the organization of seminars, concerts, exhibits, educational projects. But our thoughts must go to young generations. Youths are not the future, they are our present, and for this reason we have awarded them. This is a model that we must disseminate."