The finalists for this year’s Opus Prize, a $1 million award that honors volunteers who are inspired by faith to solve social problems around the world, hail everywhere from Indonesia to Washington, D.C.
Monday, the Opus Prize Foundation announced the Fahmina Institute, along with Carol Keehan, Catholic Health Association president, and Sakena Yacoobi, Afghan Institute of Learning founder, as the finalists, in partnership with Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
The finalists will come to Georgetown for the awards ceremony in November.
“[The prize is] to honor and thus to encourage remarkable people who are working to solve the world’s biggest problems,” said Katherine Marshall, a senior fellow at the Berkley Center. “But perhaps the second and equally important goal of the prize is to inspire the spirit of service in students.”
In addition to the $1 million award, the two other finalists will each get $100,000 awards to fund their work.
“This year’s finalists are inspiring examples of the positive differences that each of us can make in our communities and indeed our world,” University President John J. DeGioia said in a press release. “They embody the Jesuit principle of being women and men in service of others, and we are honored to host them on campus this fall, for both the awards ceremony and discussions with our students.”
Like other Opus Prize finalists, Yacoobi’s drive to run the Afghan Institute of Learning comes from her faith. While growing up in Afghanistan and seeing women and children suffer from diseases and discrimination, she saw Islam serve as the impetus to help them overcome these struggles.
“Being a Muslim, I believe God loves us, and if we act in a loving way, God will help and guide us,” said Yacoobi, who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. “I actually started to cry [when I was notified of the decision] because of the great honor to AIL’s work.”
“I believe that things happen for a good reason,” she added. “Thanks to being a finalist, the work of AIL will be better known and will help us do things that we have not yet been able to do yet. I have been thinking about things I would like to do, and now I will have the opportunity to do them.”
The Fahmina Institute, established in 2000 in Cirebon, Indonesia, is a finalist for its work in educating people about Islamic culture and values while also focusing on scholarly research and educating young Muslims.
The final nominee, Keehan, works to aid the poor at the Catholic Health Association of the United States, based in Washington, D.C. She pushed for the passage of the Affordable Care Act and was listed in 2010 as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.
One professor and one student from the Opus Prize Foundation’s steering committee will visit each nominee and report back to the foundation’s board of directors, which will choose a winner ahead of the Nov. 13 awards ceremony.