On January 26, 2012, The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Thailand gave recognition to Fr. Joe and six other fighters for equality at its annual awards ceremony, held here in Bangkok.
The award recognizes national heroes who have the courage to stand up and fight for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves. Two of the seven recipients – labor activist Thanong Podiarn and lawyer Somchai Neelapjit – have disappeared and are presumed to have been killed in their struggle for equality.
In accepting his award, Fr. Joe spoke of what such recognition means: “This award,” he said, “is not about yesterday. It is about tomorrow. It means that you trust us to continue to do what is universally right. It gives us strength and courage to continue our struggles. It is a promise on our part – a promise to help defend the rights of street children and to make every effort to help every poor child and street kid in need, and to send them all to school.”
Father Joe continued, “Finally, this award recognizes that we are not alone in our struggles. It honors everyone who works and lives at our Mercy Centre. It is recognition that our teachers and social workers at Mercy Centre are the real heroes to all the throw-away children who live on the streets.”
Fr. Joe was the sole foreign-born Thai resident honored at the annual ceremony. Previously, he has received several lifetime achievement awards, most notably, in 2004, when Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand presented a lifetime achievement award to Fr. Joe as the foreign resident “who has contributed the most to the promotion of the status and protection of women and children in Thailand.”
Pictured above: Fr. Joe with fellow award recipient Patimoh Poh-I-Taeda-Oh of the Yala-based WePeace Group.