Union Medal Thich Nhat Hanh

Jim Forest is licensed under CC BY 1.0

Thich Nhat Hanh was friends with Martin Luther King Jr., who nominated Hanh for the Nobel Prize.

Thich Nhat Hanh, peace activist, author and Buddhist teacher, will be awarded the Union Medal by the City of New York's Union Theological Seminary. Previous winners of this award include Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The Union Medal was first instituted in 1981 as an expression of honoring the individuals whose lives mirror the Seminary's mission in the world. This medal is the highest award to be given by the Seminary. In the press release concerning the even, Reverend Dr. Serene Jones, the President of City of New York's Union, said, “Thay [as Thich Nhat Hanh is affectionately known] has touched deep chords among people of many different backgrounds, faiths, and experiences. We are so proud to recognize his remarkable global endeavors.”

The Union Medal ceremony will be held on September 6 at the annual convocation service. The event welcomes new faculty and new students. It also marks the official start of the school year.

Thich Nhat Hanh will be unable to attend the ceremony. Sister Chan Duc, a representative from Plum Village, will accept the Union Medal for him. Plum Village is a well-known monastery located in the southwestern part of France.

Thich Nhat Hanh earned his Master of Arts in Religion from Union and Columbia University. He earned this distinction in 1963. The Buddhist monk enjoyed a close friendship with the renowned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The latter was recorded as saying that Nhat Hanh encouraged him to speak against the Vietnam War. King was so influenced by him that in 1967, he wrote to the Norwegian Nobel Committee saying, “I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, during his many years of exile from his native Vietnam, established the global Order of Interbeing. He also set up the Unified Buddhist Church in France. He recognized that mindfulness is most genuine when it gets practiced as a community, and thus founded six monasteries along with multiple practice centers all over Europe, United States and Asia. About 1,000 sanghas or local mindfulness communities were also established. Running all these establishments are about 600 monks and nuns. They are helped by lay students numbering in the thousands.

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