Chilean nun who spent pandemic in prison wins Zayed Award

Zayed Award for Humanity

A Chilean nun who chose to stay with inmates during the pandemic has been honoured with the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity for her dedication to prisoner dignity.

Sister Nelly León, a nun with 25 years experience working with incarcerated women, emphasises the importance of upholding the dignity of prisoners.

Sister Nelly hopes this recognition will draw attention to the plight of those behind bars.

“It will help us to keep fighting to restore the lives of so many people deprived of liberty, especially women” León remarked.

“But we have to invite more people for that task. That’s a problem that society as a whole needs to address.”

During the pandemic, when visitation to Chilean prisons was halted, Sister León chose to remain with inmates at Santiago’s female prison for 18 months. The move illustrates her unwavering commitment to her cause.

Urgent need for prisoner rehabilitation

The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity acknowledges individuals and institutions promoting peace and solidarity.

Established in 2019, the award ceremony recognises recipients with $1 million for their projects. The prize symbolises a global commitment to human fraternity and peace.

Past recipients include Pope Francis and Al-Tayeb, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, Moroccan-French activist against extremism Latifa Ibn Ziaten, and Kenyan peace mediator Shamsa Abubakar Fadhil.

Sister Nelly, a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, founded the Fundación Mujer Levantate (Rise Up Woman Foundation), aiding female prisoners during and after their incarceration.

León addresses vulnerable women’s systemic challenges through her work, advocating for their rights and reintegration into society.

Reflecting on her journey, León underscores the need for compassion and support for those entangled in the justice system. She highlights the critical role of religious assistance in prisons and urges the Church to fulfil its duty in providing spiritual guidance to inmates.

In Chile, where incarceration disproportionately affects the poor, Sister Nelly sheds light on the urgent need for rehabilitation and reintegration programmes. She challenges societal perceptions of prisoners, advocating for second chances and opportunities for redemption.

She added that the Zayed Award will be very useful in her struggle against mass incarceration in Chile.


Crux Now

Vatican News

CathNews New Zealand


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , , , ,