Greenville 2018 Atlantic Peace & Dialogue Awards Ceremony
The Atlantic Institute of Greenville held its annual Peace and Dialogue Awards Dinner at the Younts Conference Center of Furman University on April 10th, 2018. These Awards are given to individuals who aid their community and exemplify the ideals of the Atlantic Institute. After rousing conversations and a beautiful dinner, the Keynote Speaker, Rais Bhuiyan, shared his story with those in attendance. Mr. Bhuiyan’s harrowing story of survival and forgiveness set the tone for the rest of the evening. After Mr. Bhuiyan’s riveting tale, the awards were presented to the winners.
The Public and Community Service Award went to Pastor Chris Heavner of Clemson University’s Lutheran Church. The Media and Communications Award went to Katrice Hardy of the Greenville News. Finally, the Peace and Dialogue Award went to Paul Guy of Beyond Differences. After honoring these three community and charity focused individuals, the Award Dinner concluded. We were thrilled to have so many members of our community join us and are proud to continue our mission of peace and will continue to honor those that aid us.
Rais Bhuiyan, an American Muslim, is an extraordinary individual with a powerful story. After serving as a pilot officer in the Bangladesh air force, Rais moved to the United States in 1999 to study computer technology. Ten days after 9/11, Rais was the victim of a horrific hate crime. Shot in the face at point blank range by white supremacist, Mark Stroman, Rais barely survived. Sadly, two others were killed. Stroman was sentenced to death; ten years later, Rais led an international campaign, fighting to save Stroman’s life.
Rais’ near death experience and subsequent religious pilgrimage sparked a profound journey of soul searching and began his path as a human rights activist for peace, forgiveness, empathy and understanding. Rais’ effort to save Stroman from execution in 2011 was unsuccessful, but his ability to turn hate into compassion and forgive the unforgivable has been transformative. Through his non-profit, World Without Hate, Rais has touched the lives of more than 175,000 people as he shares his inspirational story and message at schools, universities, organizations and conferences all over the world.
Rais’ efforts have been widely recognized, receiving the Excellence for Human Service Award, United for Change; Search for Common Ground Award, Search for Common Ground; 2011 American of the Year, Esquire Magazine; 2014 Human Relations Award, Muslim Public Affairs Council Foundation, among others. Rais is an IT specialist by day, but following his calling, working relentlessly to end the cycle of hate and violence. To create a better world for all, Rais believes in empathy, compassion and forgiveness.
Rais Bhuiyan’s extraordiary story has been chronicled in The True American: Murder & Mercy in Texas by NY Times journalist Anand Giridharadas; the 2014 New York Times Book Review Notable Book and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. During 2016, Rais worked with the Obama Administration’s Domestic Policy Council and State Department, receiving a personal letter from the President, thanking him for his courage and efforts. Rais is featured in the documentary series, The Secret Life of Muslims featured on Vox, PRI, and the USA network. His segment was chosen by CBS Sunday Morning for national broadcast on November 27, 2016.
As a peace activist, human rights advocate and non-profit leader, Rais continues to travel globally, speaking about his experiences of forgiveness, compassion, empathy, understanding and acceptance, as well as hate-crimes, gun violence, victim’s rights, race relations, equity and social justice, workplace violence, intolerance, faith and leadership.
2018 Awardees - Atlantic Peace & Dialogue Awards
Peace and Dialogue Award:
Feeling led to help our community in an unusual way he took on a new role with the Greenville Branch of the NAACP. As president, from 2000-2006, he was the Chief organizer of the Martin Luther King Holiday march and demonstration. The march was the largest in the history of Greenville County.
After leaving the NAACP, Mr. Guy created Beyond Differences. Beyond Differences is a cross-cultural relations organization that brings people, ideas, and principles together to create a more progressive and inclusive community. In the forming of Beyond Differences, Mr. Guy organized the first non-governmental study of Race Relations in Greenville. The study was known as Race Matters. Under his leadership he was able to bring groups and organizations together that previously had no relations. From Bob Jones University to Clemson, the YWCA, Greenville Forward and others. The study has been seen by over twenty thousand people in Greenville. Beyond Differences has become one of the premier organization that addresses issues and challenge through community dialogues. Beyond Differences youth component is the Greenville Youth Cross Cultural Leadership Council. The youth are trained as youth facilitators in the area of race relations. They sponsored a youth summit for the last eleven years at Bob Jones University. Beyond Differences has recently created a training model that bring youth and law enforcement together to addressed conflict these entities. Beyond Differences has also written the first community proposal addressing the establishment of a Citizen Law Enforcement Review Board.
Media and Communications Award:
Public and Community Service Award:
Pastor Chris Heavner has served as the Lutheran Campus Minister since 1993. Throughout this service, Pastor Heavner has helped prepare more students for joining the Ministry. He has aided the Atlantic Institute by hosting many dialogue dinners, helping to bring students and faculty from all backgrounds together. His aid to students is paramount, as well. Pastor Heavner has hosted Clemson students on Thanksgiving when they had no place else to go, as well as chaperoning students on trips to Turkey and Germany.
Pastor Heavner's charitable attitude helps to define community service in the Upstate. He has organized Habitat for Humanity builds with Clemson students, helped planned CROP Walks for World Hunger, and serves as a Diversity Administrator for Clemson University. His efforts have helped make the Upstate and the World a better place.
For Pastor Heavner's service to society, he has been awarded many distinctions. As early as 1974, Pastor Heavner was awarded the "Teenager of the Year" award by the North Carolina 4-H organization. Since then, Pastor Heavner has been recognized for his community efforts on many occasions. He has received the "Spiritual Aims Award" by the Kiwanis of the Kenwanaw of Michigan in 1992, the Hettie Rickett Award for Community Service by the SC Community Development Association in 2001, the Knutson Award for Innovation and RIsk Taking in 2002, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Excellence in Service by Clemson University in 2004, and the Distinguished Service Award by the Lutheran Campus Ministry in 2005.
Pastor Chris Heavner is the epitome of Atlantic Institute's mission of community understanding, dialogue, education and service.