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Reconciliation efforts

He helps people to understand each other

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When Eddie Kneebone first received a letter informing him he had received the 2001 Pax Christi International Peace Prize, the Indigenous Australian thought it was a bill and tossed it aside.

Days later he opened the letter. "I read it three or four times and realized it wasn't [a bill] at all," he said.

Still confused, however, he called his boss. "I said, 'I have something I am not quite sure about.' She said, 'Eddie, don't you understand, you have won an international peace prize.' "

A descendant of the Pangangarang Aboriginal clan of the Goulburn Valley region of Victoria, Australia, Brother Kneebone has for many years promoted understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through stories and art.

A senior lecturer in Australian history and aboriginal studies and the Artist in Residence at Wodonga Institute of TAFE, Brother Kneebone writes extensively on Aboriginal culture. In essence, he said, he asks human beings to look at themselves and their relationships with others. "I help people to understand each other," he said.

He received the award for his work in reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-aboriginal Australians at a community level, particularly with the farming communities of the north-east, Goulburn Valley and Upper Murray River regions of Victoria, Australia.

He accepted the prize at an award ceremony in Pattaya City, Thailand, in late October and attended Pax Christi International's weeklong regional consultation, "Empowering Peace and Justice Groups in Asia and the Pacific to Handle Conflict in a Globalizing World."

Although Pax Christi — an international Catholic peace movement that began in France at the end of World War II — has awarded the peace prize since 1988, this is the first time it has been awarded to an Australian.

"The peace prize isn't mine. It belongs to everybody I work with," Brother Kneebone said in a telephone interview. "All my colleagues share this prize. My friends, people in the Church, my community, my neighbors, and my family all share this prize because it has never come here before.

"It belongs to everybody who believes in peace and justice. . . , everybody that is part of this world that God created. It hangs there for all people to see."

Brother Kneebone said when he first learned of the honor he had to come to terms with what Pax Christi was offering.

"Nothing like that had ever happened in my life," he said. "I had not set out to achieve this. I hadn't even heard of it before."

Brother Kneebone said he teaches people about property rights, war reconciliation and about Australian history. He asks people to learn from the past and influence the future. He wants people to look at themselves, their family and their community.

And to those who will listen, he talks about God.

Brother Kneebone first learned of the Church 40 years ago. Missionaries taught him discussions and he remembered the things they had to say.

He didn't join the Church, however, until two years ago when he heard the discussions again. During a 12-week period the missionaries answered every one of Brother Kneebone's questions.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings true peace, said Brother Kneebone. "If you are not finding peace in the gospel, you are not connected with the Spirit of God."

E-mail: sarah@desnews.com