NEWS from the National Council of Churches, USA
Contact NCC News Service: 212-870-2252  |  E-mail   |  Most Recent Stories   |  NCC Home

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie Receives
First Church World Service Humanitarian Award

August 23, 2002, NEW YORK CITY - Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie yesterday became the first recipient of the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program Humanitarian Award. Presented during a national conference in New York City for the international humanitarian aid agency's immigration and refugee workers and affiliate agencies, the award honored Jolie for her work and dedication as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Since becoming UNHCR's spokesperson in August 2001, Jolie has mounted an impressive record of personal commitment, travel, financial contributions, and resources on behalf of the millions of persons being torn from their homes worldwide, in the face of war, conflict and oppression. In less than a year, she has visited refugee camps and met with refugees, officials, and aid workers in countries including Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Namibia, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Thailand.

Executive for Refugee Ministries, the United Church of Christ Mary Kuenning Gross presented the humanitarian award, which states that "Ms. Jolie's work on behalf of refugees has made her a role model of individual humanitarian action, an inspiration to people around the world, angelinajolie.jpg (11572 bytes)especially the young. She gives a voice to the often forgotten refugees and displaced persons whose lives have been torn by persecution and war. Her active concern brings the promise of hope."

Accepting the award for Jolie, who could not be present due to her filming commitments, UNHCR Regional Representative Guenet Guebre-Christos told the awards banquet audience gathered in Manhattan's New Yorker Hotel that the Goodwill Ambassador "not only wanted to experience the trials and tribulations that refugees experience, but wanted to see the aspiration in their eyes." Guebre-Christos said Jolie had that chance recently, when she accompanied a convoy of repatriées.

Jolie conveyed a message thanking "CWS for this honor and for recognizing my work as UNHCR's Goodwill ambassador. In turn," she communicated via Guebre-Christos, "I'd like to salute you all and all humanitarian field workers whose courageous work for refugees makes you heroes in my eyes."

Jolie, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2000 for "Girl, Interrupted," became acquainted with Church World Service's immigration and refugee resettlement programs and advocacy work when the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador visited Atlanta last fall. Wanting to learn more about the experiences of refugees who have resettled in the U.S., she met with CWS affiliate the Christian Council of Metropolitan Atlanta (CCMA), learning how ecumenical and church organizations make refugee resettlement services a part of their ministry. With CCMA's assistance, Jolie also met with a group of Atlanta-area refugee women from Afghanistan, to discuss issues of violence against women.

On June 20 of this year, Jolie joined US Secretary of State Colin Powell for World Refugee Day ceremonies in Washington, D.C., commenting on the U.S.' continued obligation to open its arms to immigrants and refugees. "The United States was founded by refugees. Those fleeing religious persecution in England were among the first settlers," Jolie reminded, "and since then there have been many groups who have since called America their home. And throughout the last two centuries, we have opened our arms to refugees and immigrants.

"The strength of the United States depends on that very diversity. And by encouraging and teaching our youngest citizens about tolerance and diversity," she concluded, "we can encourage them to make a difference for a much better world tomorrow."

Shortly before attending the World Refugee Day ceremonies, Jolie completed an extensive mission visiting Columbian refugees in Ecuador, where more than 7,000 Columbian refugees and asylum seekers have fled and about 300 new arrivals are coming every month.

A generous contributor to UNHCR programs, Jolie contributed one million dollars to Afghan refugees last September. In May she donated 100,000 dollars to refugees for vocation and educational training programs to benefit refugees and community members living along the Thai-Myanmar border-predominately Karen refugees who have taken asylum from Myanmar's ruling military regime.

On location for the international feature film "Beyond Borders," Jolie visited Namibia's Osire refugee camp in March. In addition to her personal, substantial contribution to the camp, the film's production team donated 13.5 tons of food supplies, bedding and tents.

With a 50-year-plus commitment to the world's displaced, Church World Service is an international humanitarian agency and ministry of the 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member denominations of the National Council of Churches USA, working in partnership with local organizations in more than 80 countries to support sustainable self-help and development, meet emergency needs, aid refugees, and address the root causes of poverty and powerlessness.

One of the largest humanitarian aid agencies, CWS administers refugee processing programs in Nairobi, Kenya, and Accra, Ghana, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State. The two offices represent ten voluntary agencies in resettling some 20,000 refugees from sub-Saharan Africa in the U.S. each year.


Photo above:   On 23 March 2002, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited Osire Refugee Camp in Namibia. Ms. Jolie brought hundreds of volleyballs, basketballs, footballs and nets for the refugees' sports teams of all ages. Osire Camp, established in 1998, hosts 24,000 refugees, mainly from Angola. Photo: UNHCR/ J.B. Mollard/ 03.2002.


About the National Council of Churches
NCC Home Page