Keynote Speech at the 65th Ramon Magsaysay Awards
Nov. 11, 2023
Hello! Today, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim will deliver the keynote speech at the 65th Ramon Magsaysay Awards.
After morning practice and meditation, Sunim edited the draft of his speech with Jason Lim, who was to interpret it. Given that this year’s award ceremony was to be attended by 45 former award recipients and live-streamed worldwide, the speech was aimed at conveying a message of peace for all people around the world. In the initial draft, Sunim had quoted Gandhi, but ultimately decided to incorporate a quote from President Magsaysay instead.
After editing the draft, Sunim left the hotel at 10:30 am and headed toward the Korean Embassy in Manila on the invitation of the ambassador.
Upon his arrival at the embassy, he was warmly welcomed by Ambassador Lee Sangwha.
“Thank you for visiting me despite your busy schedule.”
Sunim had a talk with the ambassador, his wife, and the embassy counselor over tea.
Then they moved to the dining room and continued their conversation over lunch. The ambassador showed great interest in the JTS activities that Sunim has been involved in for the past 20 years in Mindanao.
“Our government provides support for Mindanao on a small scale, but I didn’t know that you’ve built around 60 schools.”
“It’s been 20 years since you were honored with the Magsaysay Award.”
“It’s a highly significant event.”
Ambassador Lee Sangwha mentioned that he had worked at the U.N. and in Myanmar previously. Sunim and the ambassador engaged in a lengthy discussion about the conflicts occuring in various places around the world and ways to eradicate poverty. After two hours of conversation, Sunim took a photo with the ambassador and his wife before leaving the embassy.
Sunim headed toward the Manila Metropolitan Theater, the venue for the award ceremony. When Sunim arrived, many guests were already seated, awaiting the start of the ceremony.
Sunim exchanged greetings with the staff of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) in a waiting room and at around 4:30 pm lined up with other awardees in the lobby to enter the stage.
After a video showcasing the history of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards from 1957–2023 was shown, the central door of the theater opened, and awardees, with Sunim at the front, walked toward the stage. The entire audience stood up and applauded, warmly welcoming the awardees.
After the honor guard’s march on the stage, the national anthem of the Philippines played. Susan Afan, today’s event MC and the president of the RMAF, then announced the commencement of the ceremony.
“Welcome to the 65th Ramon Magsaysay Awards presentation ceremonies. Thank you for joining us in this milestone celebration of transformative leadership and selfless service in Asia.”
RMAF chairman Aurelio Luis Montinola delivered a welcome speech and the recipients of this year’s award were then announced.
The first recipient was Korvi Rakshand from Bangladesh. He founded JAAGO Foundation, providing free primary and secondary level English education to children in underprivileged areas in Dhaka. He has offered free education to more than 30,000 children across 206 classrooms. By leveraging online technology, he successfully addressed the challenge of education access in remote areas and created opportunities for young people to participate in the project. Additionally, he implemented a project supporting the physical and mental well-being of children living in the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.
The second recipient was Miriam Coronel-Ferrer from the Philippines. She drafted the Philippines’ first National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, advocating the role of women as peace builders for the U.N. Security Council in all stages. Additionally, she played a crucial role in the negotiation panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front(MILF), contributing to the transformation of conflict areas in Mindanao into peaceful civilian zones. Her mediation efforts extended to conflicts in other countries, including Timor-Leste and Cambodia.
The third recipient was Eugenio Lemos from Timor-Leste. He founded Permakultura Timor-Lorosa (Permatil) to establish a sustainable agricultural system, and has worked for the preservation of the environment and the integration of indigenous culture for the welfare of community.
The fourth recipient was Ravi Kannan R. from India. With the belief that no one should be deprived of medical treatment due to financial constraints, he founded the Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Center (CCHRC), providing free cancer treatments to 5,000 new patients and 20,000 follow-up treatments annually to impoverished patients.
A video showcasing the works of the recipients was played and their stories moved everyone. The audience applauded loudly at the narratives of these four people, who have demonstrated what benefiting the world looks like through their lives. Sunim also joined in the applause, demonstrating his respect for their achievements.
After awarding the four recipients, the chairman of the RMAF introduced Sunim as the keynote speaker.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is with honor that I introduce our Keynote Speaker this evening. He is the founder of Jungto Society, an organization dedicated to applying the Buddha’s teachings on daily mindful practice, environmentalism, and world peace. In 2002, he was elected to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his compassionate attention to the human cost of Korea’s bitter division and his hopeful appeal for reconciliation. Let’s listen to his speech with loud applause.”
Amid a resounding round of applause, Sunim stepped up to the podium and began his keynote speech, with Jason Lim providing interpretation.
Let’s stop wars and plant the trees of peace
First and foremost, immediately stop war
Second, begin a dialogue for peace
Third, citizens of the world must rise up for peace
Considering the global situation, Sunim’s speech delivered a profound and
well-timed message. All the participants empathized with Sunim, expressing their appreciation with a big round of applause.
Then a children’s choir sang a beautiful song titled “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
Sunim’s message, urging us to act for peace, resonated through the clear voices of the children, filling the Metropolitan Theater.
Finally, all former and present Magsaysay awardees stepped onto the stage for a group photo. On the screen, photos of awardees from 1958 to 2023 unfolded like a panorama.
When 45 former and present awardees from across Asia stood shoulder to shoulder on the stage, another round of big applause filled the venue.
With RMAF president Susan Afan making the closing announcement, the award ceremony came to an end.
“The 65TH Ramon Magsaysay Awards presentation ceremonies are now concluded. Thank you for your presence.”
Sunim and the other awardees stepped down from the stage, escorted by the honor guard. As they walked through the venue, the audience erupted in a standing ovation.
In the lobby, Sunim engaged in conversations and took photos with fellow awardees. First, Wilson Bezwada, a 2016 awardee, approached Sunim and greeted him. He is the National Convenor of Safari Karmachari Andolan (SKA), an organization dedicated to fighting for the dignity of manual sewage cleaners.
“I am a Dalit in India. Few people talk about the suffering of the Dalits. I was deeply moved when you mentioned the suffering of Dalits. I am actively working to improve the human rights of Dalits involved in manual sewage cleaning. When I received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2016, I also took the opportunity to speak out about their plight.”
Sunim also exchanged greetings with the First Lady of the Philippines.
“Thank you for your kind words. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to you as well.”
The First Lady said thank you to Sunim in Korean. Following that, Sunim approached each of this year’s awardees to convey his congratulations. His first congratulations went to Eugenio Lemos.
“Yes, let’s do that.”
Then Sunim conveyed his congratulations to Ravi Kannan.
“Please visit our hospital when you come to Assam.”
“I would like you to bless us and pray for us.”
“I will gladly help if there is anything I can do.”
The husband of Susan Afan also extended his greetings to Sunim, expressing how deeply moved he was by Sunim’s keynote speech.
“Your speech was truly remarkable. You presented a clear solution to end the wars raging worldwide. I hope that the journalists attending this event will report on your speech. Thank you.”
Many people expressed that they were moved by Sunim’s keynote speech. One attendee, who noted she had listened attentively, approached him to express her impressions.
“I want to say how much I loved your message of peace today. Your message that peace can be achieved by our actions over an extended period of time is particularly impactful.”
Next, Sunim approached Korvi Rakshand to convey his congratulations.
“I need a lot of your blessings. I am young and don’t have much experience.”
“Certainly. I’ve tried to implement education programs in the Rohingya refugee camp, but I couldn’t because there’s no Internet access there. Once Internet access is secured, the implementation of education programs can proceed.”
“Yes, I will propose the idea to the Bangladesh government.”
“I provided education to around 500 students at the refugee camp for two years, but I was expelled in the end. Nevertheless, I remain committed to continuing my efforts.”
“Send me an email and I will help you right away.”
“That’s why I am also focusing on education.”
Sunim encouraged Korvi Rakshand, then approached Mirian Coronel-Ferrer to convey his congratulations.
“Both you and I share the same message and we need to consistently appeal to people.”
“You’re right. Peace must be maintained.”
Lastly, Sunim met with the former Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines.
“Your speech was truly inspiring. It was a very fitting message of peace. People are now at a loss. I served as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines. Ban Ki-moon, the former Secretary-General of the U.N. is my friend. I provided substantial assistance when North Korean refugees defected to South Korea via the Philippines.”
After having conversations with many of the participants, Sunim headed to the RMAF by car.
At 7:30 pm, there was a banquet commemorating the 65th Ramon Magsaysay Awards. Upon arrival, Sunim looked for Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and greeted him.
“Oh, Venerable Pomnyun!”
“Yes. You gave a very good speech about peace at today’s event.”
Sunim sat at the same table with Aurelio Luis Montinola, chairman of the RMAF. As everyone sitting at the table has been actively engaged in the peace movement, the chairman said with a smile,
“We are the peace table!”
Sunim engaged in a more in-depth conversation with Miriam Coronel-Ferrer regarding the issues of South and North Korea, Myanmar, and peace in Mindanao.
During the dinner, many people approached Sunim to offer greetings.
“I am greatly inspired by your speech today. It conveyed a very timely message. I express my sincere respect for your work.”
As the dinner progressed, a performance featuring traditional Filipino and modern musical instruments began on the stage.
Sunim engaged in conversations with several more people and promised future collaborations with them before leaving the venue and heading for the hotel.
Today’s award ceremony served as momentum for new collaborations with many people who share the same aspirations. It is hoped that together, we will create a new civilization where people share and support one another in solidarity.
Tomorrow, Sunim will hold a Dharma Q&A session for Jungto practitioners at Jungto Dharma Center in Manila in the morning, followed by participation in a book launch event for The Greatness of Spirit published by the RMAF, and the Magsaysay Award Festival in the afternoon.