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Two years after her death, Mother Angelica remembered for faith, determination

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 18:45

Irondale, Ala., Mar 27, 2018 / 04:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Catholics marked the second anniversary of the death of Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN Global Catholic Network.

“Mother Angelica’s spirit continues to guide all that we do at EWTN. It’s easy to feel her presence. She was a remarkable woman of faith and courage whose goal was to lead people to heaven,” said Michael P. Warsaw, EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

“Every day we hear from people around the world whose lives have been changed by EWTN, long after Mother stopped making programs. It’s clear that the work of EWTN and the mission of our Foundress continue to accomplish her goal,” Warsaw told CNA, which is part of the EWTN family.

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation died at the age of 92 on March 27, 2016, after a 15-year struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke.

Warsaw believes that sharing stories and memories of the network’s foundress has played an important role in maintaining the culture she fostered at EWTN.

“I was blessed to be with Mother nearly every day for the last ten active years that she had at EWTN before her stroke. Sharing those stories provides a great way for people to understand a little something about her. It’s an important way of helping our employees to understand that EWTN has always been a work of God’s Providence,” Warsaw said.

Warsaw also believes that Mother Angelica has left a lasting legacy within the U.S., by reminding Catholics of “the importance of fidelity to the traditional teachings of the Church” and “the importance of keeping Christ at the center of our lives through the Eucharist.”

“She had seen that there was so much confusion in the world and that the Church had answers to that chaos,” Warsaw remarked, adding, “she wanted everyone to know the joy that comes from that intimate relationship with our Lord.”

Warsaw said he hopes that younger and future generations will aspire to Mother Angelica’s frequently recited motto: “Dare to do the ridiculous so that God can accomplish the miraculous!”

In Rome, a memorial Mass was celebrated Tuesday in remembrance of the anniversary of Mother Angelica’s death.

The Mass was celebrated in the Choir Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, was the principal celebrant. During his homily, Cardinal O’Brien fondly remembered the EWTN foundress.

“A worldly-wise contemplative, a handicapped hobbler, an unsophisticated but highly intelligent charismatic voice still touching the hearts of millions around the world, Mother Mary Angelica would surely be an unexpected choice to enable God’s word to reach to the ends of the earth,” O’Brien said.

“Her every living moment was spent in a scrupulous discernment of God’s will in her life – an active life of contemplation guided by the Eucharist and that well-worn Bible always clutched in her arms,” he continued.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Brien referenced Mother Angelica’s sufferings, both physical and interior, saying that despite challenges, her “steel-willed, tenacious determination resulted in amazing achievements.”

The strokes which left Mother Angelica speechless and physically powerless brought some of the most difficult years of her life, O’Brien said, which led her to “the life of a true contemplative.”

“We can but imagine what graces which those years of silent suffering have won for the spread of the Eternal Word, even as we speak,” O’Brien remarked.

The cardinal spoke to CNA about Mother Angelica’s legacy of putting “herself completely at the will of God and the Church,” which positively “affected the lives of many, many Catholics.” He also noted that “no one can really ascertain the long-range effect that [her legacy] will continue to have on the Church and throughout the world.”

Doug Keck, EWTN President and Chief Operating Officer, told CNA that Mother Angelica’s memory lives on through EWTN viewers.

“Not a day goes by that we do not get calls, emails, and/or letters extolling not only the importance of EWTN in their spiritual lives but specifically in the teachings of Mother Angelica on her classic, timeless live shows,” Keck said.

Keck believes that viewers relate so deeply to Mother Angelica because she “meets them where they are, in all their pain and brokenness, but refuses to leave them there. Instead, she lovingly accompanies, getting them on the right path that leads to her spouse, Jesus Christ.”

The EWTN foundress left a legacy remembered beyond her viewers. She will also be remembered by the communications community for her lasting achievements, Keck said.

“Mother Angelica defined what it meant to be a media revolutionary and cable pioneer. She went forward, with one step in the air and a queasy feeling in her stomach, into a communications jungle,” Keck said.

“She astonished the experts and proved to an industry of mavericks that faithfully following your mission despite all obstacles could lead to great rewards.”

Mother Angelica launched EWTN Global Catholic Network in 1981. Now the largest religious media network in the world, today it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

In addition to 11 television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, produces daily news show EWTN News Nightly, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing as a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press.



Washington archdiocese's bus ad case heard by appeals court

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 18:35

Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2018 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Washington was in court on Monday, arguing that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s ban on any religious-themed advertisements is unconstitutional.

The case was brought to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and argued March 26.

In October 2017, the WMATA rejected a series of ads from the archdiocese which featured a biblical scene and a message about attending Mass and donating to charity. The ads were intended to run during the Christmas season. The archdiocese filed suit in late November, alleging discrimination.

The ads read “Find the Perfect Gift,” and contained a link to a website containing content about Mass times and opportunities for charities. The website also stated that “JESUS is the perfect gift.”

In 2015, WMATA had banned all advertisements that concerned religion, including those both promoting or condemning a particular faith. This ban came after a group attempted to place anti-Muslim advertisements on busses and subway cars.

Despite the supposed ban on religious-themed advertisements, WMATA displayed an advertisement for the Salvation Army after it rejected the Archdiocese of Washington’s advertisements. The Salvation Army is an ecclesial community which has a large charity drive during the Christmas season.

Previously, a district court sided with WMATA and denied the archdiocese's request for an injunction, saying the case would not likely succeedd on religious freedom or free speech grounds.

“The Archdiocese has consistently sought to protect and defend our constitutional right of free speech and expression of our faith in the public square,” said Ed McFadden, secretary of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington.

“We were pleased that our legal team had the opportunity to do just that in the appeals court, and are grateful for the court’s consideration of the matter.”

The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in support of the Archdiocese of Washington in January.

“WMATA’s policy constitutes unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. The policy directly contravenes Supreme Court precedents that preclude the government from disfavoring speech from a religious perspective,” wrote the Department of Justice.

“The result is that messages encouraging religious exercise—a right also protected by the First Amendment—are singled out as unacceptable.”

Amid budget fight, survey says Nebraskans oppose taxpayer-funding for abortion

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:00

Lincoln, Neb., Mar 27, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is deadlocked over a provision in the state’s budget bill that would strip Title X funds from abortion providers.

The provision, supported by Gov. Pete Ricketts, would allow access to federal funding for family planning and health services only to Nebraska providers “objectively independent” - physically and financially separated - from clinics providing abortions.  

The state’s legislators have twice failed to pass the proposed $8.8 billion budget after debating the provision, which was introduced following reports from the state’s auditor that some Title X funds have wrongly gone to abortion-related expenses in health clinics.

Last week, Ricketts told CNA that “What we have seen in Nebraska is that these Title X dollars, according to a couple of our audits, have been used to fund abortions.”  

Results from a poll conducted over the weekend suggest that 64 percent of surveyed Nebraskans oppose taxpayer funding for abortion. Seventeen percent of those surveyed report being undecided on the matter, and 19 percent say they support taxpayer funding for abortion. As the legislature remains deadlocked on the issue, 66 percent of those surveyed say that state legislators have a duty to vote on the budget, rather than allow it to be filibustered.
The poll was conducted by Public Survey Research, an Iowa-based polling firm.

“Nebraska is a pro-life state, and that our budget ought to reflect that,” Ricketts told CNA March 22. “I believe that abortion is inherently wrong, so personally I do not want to see those dollars to go to that, but in general even those who are pro-choice understand that it’s bad policy to have federal tax dollars fund something that is so controversial and really ought not be funded by fed tax dollars.”

'The shenanigans' at Mother Angelica's first vows

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 14:03

Irondale, Ala., Mar 27, 2018 / 12:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- If you picture a nun's first profession of vows, you probably picture a serene, peaceful affair with the sisters singing harmoniously and everything running joyfully and smoothly.

However, the day of Mother Angelica's first vows was anything but.

Outside, a blizzard spit snow and ice, snarling roads and delaying the guests and the presiding bishop, James McFadden.

Inside, different storms were brewing.

As then-Sister Angelica knelt behind the grille, trying to pray before taking her vows, the organist sister and the choir director, Sr. Mary of the Cross (with whom Sr. Angelica had sparred in the past), began arguing about musical technique, within earshot of the already-arrived guests.

As the incident is recalled in her biography:

Voices slowly escalated. Suddenly the two nuns were at each other: the organist refusing to play, Mary of the Cross threatening to throw her into the snow if she didn’t.

“And I’m sitting there trying to re-collect myself for my vows,” Mother Angelica recalled. “The people must have thought we were nuts.”

Then came the bug, scampering across the wooden floor in front of the sisters.

Mary of the Cross rose up, lifted the kneeler with both hands, and pounded it on the ground, attempting to annihilate the insect. Like a madwoman with a jackhammer, she repeatedly wielded the prie-dieu (kneeler), hurling it and herself at the crawler. The organist, thinking the display an underhanded critique of her playing, pounded the keys all the harder. Sister Angelica could not believe what she termed “the shenanigans.” Then the bishop walked in.

Wet and cold from walking several blocks where he had to leave his stalled car, Bishop McFadden requested a fresh pair of socks, which Sr. Mary of the Cross sent Sister Angelica to get.

When it came time to place the profession ring on Sr. Angelica’s fingers, the bishop couldn’t fit it past her knuckle – her hand was swollen from a shower handle in the convent that had crumbled and cut her hand several days prior.

“With everything going on there, I’m thinking, Oh Jesus doesn’t love me. You know?...I mean, it was a real spiritual experience!” Mother Angelica said. “But that’s the way God works with me. As I look back, before anything big that was coming, something happened to me.”

Despite “the shenanigans” of the day, Sr. Angelica took her vows seriously, writing in a letter to her mother that “the espoused” and “royal couple” (herself and Jesus) “wished to express their gratitude to their friend and member of their personal court...The spouse has asked the Bridegroom to fill you with his peace and consolation.”

She signed the letter: “Jesus and Angelica.”

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of EWTN, died on March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

This article originally ran on March 28, 2016.

We asked and you answered: How Mother Angelica touched your lives

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 05:07

Irondale, Ala., Mar 27, 2018 / 03:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, founder of EWTN, passed away in 2016, on Easter Sunday, after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

Mother Angelica founded EWTN out of a garage in Alabama in 1981, and it has since become the largest religious media network in the world. Her work touched the lives of many people across the world. We asked our readers to share their stories of how Mother Angelica influenced them, and we were overwhelmed by the flood of responses. Here are just a few of the stories from our readers, edited for clarity:

“I remember about seven years ago, I was suicidally depressed. I did not want to live, I could not even think of a reason to go on. Just utter blackness all around. I came across one of Mother Angelica's books. She helped bring me out of the darkness with her firm faith, wisdom and love. It made all the difference and with the Virgin Mary's help, I have a whole new life in Christ today. A solid joyful life! Thank you Mother Angelica!”

“I was going through a difficult time physically (I became disabled with a chronic med problem), emotionally, and spiritually - I had lost my way and was floundering. Mostly in bed for many months, I began channel surfing and found EWTN. Mother Angelica began leading me back to the Church. EWTN is one of the main reasons I returned to the Church, and my faith has never been stronger. I went to Confession in 2009 for the first time in decades. I sponsored my son-in-law when he converted and my daughter finally made her confirmation - they were married in the Church after being married civilly for 10 years. My husband also returned after decades and my grandson made his Communion at the age of 10. I am so grateful to Mother and EWTN, and she has provided much inspiration via her books also. RIP Mother.”

“My mom first saw Mother Angelica on TV in 1989 as she was flipping through the channels to find her soap operas. My mother would tell you that she felt compelled to watch because she hadn't seen a nun in a habit in so long, and it rekindled in her the spark that helped our entire family become more faithfully practicing Catholics. I can honestly say that I don't know who or where I would be today if it wasn't for Mother Angelica, EWTN, and the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration who prayed for me at my mother’s behest through many challenging years.”

“I met her at EWTN, attending her show. After the show, my wife told her it was my birthday. She held my hands with such tenderness and said: ‘Oh it's your birthday - Happy Birthday.’ She looked at me as if I was the only person in the room. I've never forgotten that experience.”

“The Praying the Rosary devotion, it was either a Tuesday or a Friday and I turned on EWTN to watch the Sorrowful mysteries. That was a day that changed my life and that's the day where I began a greater devotion to Our Lady.”

“In the Spring of 2014, I was in a confused state of my life. My husband left our matrimonial home and without my knowing, he began another relationship in our country home, Nigeria. I was plunged into despair. But before my discovering this, I had the opportunity of hearing The Word, The Eternal Word from Mother and all of EWTN. Mother did not just teach me to forgive, trust and love until it hurts, she made me grow deeply in my faith every day. Today, though my husband is still in the wilderness, I have not stopped believing, and this is because of my love and dedication to our Catholic devotion preserved by Mother Angelica through this cable television network. I love Mother and everyone else God is using through this channel. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, Amen.”

“When I was born again, I came back to the Church and got sober. I would often watch her on EWTN when I was anxious or depressed. I remember reciting the rosary along with her one night and gaining a great deal of strength and comfort. I also read a book of hers during that time. God rest her soul.”

“My daughter wrote a letter to her when I had cancer, and drew a few yellow roses to her, and she answered back. It was a lovely surprise!”

“In 2008, my twin daughters at 5 years old were taken by the state due to false allegations…. I was misrepresented. I couldn't even function for a year. Everything was a blur as I had no control over my life or my children's anymore. My mother had always prayed the rosary with Mother Angelica. I started praying again, two sometimes three times a day. Mother Angelica became my stronghold. I had no idea how important a role Christ and His Mother would play in my life. She brought me there. She helped me put my armour back on...My story is not over yet, but thank you Mother Angelica for your spirit, your determination, your insight. For bringing me back to the church. To Christ and His Mother. It's been eight years and I am on the cusp to one child coming home permanently (she has cerebral palsy) and so far joint custody with the other. I just sent an email to Mother Angelica two weeks ago telling her how much my disabled daughter loves her. I hope she got it. She has been absolutely infatuated with her for a year now. She laughs with her and just listens with a big smile. We watch her together. God Bless you Mother Angelica. We love you so much. You are so loved and missed. You are Home.”

“Ten years ago, I moved to Texas. It was a very hard move. As I was settling down, I turned on our T.V. and to my surprise I saw a Catholic channel! It was EWTN, and seeing this nun talking about Jesus' love just took my heart and gave me so much understanding, and I fell in love with her cute personally. Mother Angelica pray for us.”

“She was the coolest nun. When I was little, we would watch her on EWTN and I was so amazed that there was a nun with her own television show, an incredible sense of humor, and a true understanding of the Faith. An inspiration.”


This article was originally published March 31, 2016.

Ambassador Brownback: World faces a 'critical moment' for religious minorities

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 18:11

Washington D.C., Mar 26, 2018 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- “It is more dangerous now than any time in history to be a person of faith,” said Ambassador Sam Brownback at an event marking the second anniversary of U.S. recognition that the Islamic State committed genocide against religious minorities, including Christians, in Syria and Iraq.

Brownback, who was sworn-in as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom last month, said that religious freedom should be advanced in U.S. national security policy, assistance programs, and economic strategies.

“I would like to see religious freedom be for this administration what climate change was for the last,” said Brownback at the March 23 event hosted by the Heritage Foundation.

ISIS’ Genocide of Christians: The Past, Present and Future of Christians in the Middle East” brought together human rights experts, academics, and religious freedom advocates to examine how best to address the threats posed to religious minorities by extremist groups such as the Islamic State.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously “that the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria include war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide” in March 2016. Shortly after, Secretary of State John Kerry named Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims as victims of genocide in the region.

While the panel discussions focused on Christians in the Middle East, Brownback also spoke of threats to religious liberty throughout the world. He highlighted the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims in China, and Catholic leaders in Venezuela, who came under fire from President Nicolas Maduro for speaking out about the country’s current crisis.

Brownback called for alliances between the political left and right in working towards greater religious freedom abroad urging, “We are at a critical moment for the future of religious minorities globally.”

He also asked for prayers for the persecuted and for those involved in religious freedom causes.

"By God's grace, life always triumphs over death, freedom overcomes oppression, and faith extinguishes fear. This is the source of our hope and our confidence in the future,” said Brownback.

Humanae Vitae is needed now more than ever, say conference attendees

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 17:45

Atchison, Kansas, Mar 26, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- Fifty years later, the teachings of Humanae Vitae are more relevant and necessary for the life of the Church than ever, participants at a recent symposium on the encyclical said.

The encyclical by Pope Paul VI affirms, among other things, the Church’s teaching on natural family planning methods and rejects contraception as a morally valid method for the planning and spacing of children.

The encyclical was the topic of the seventh annual Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas last weekend, a gathering of dozens of scholars, philosophers, theologians, students and lay people from throughout the United States.

The keynote speakers included Dr. Janet Smith from Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Dr. Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco; and Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute.

While the message and teachings of Humanae Vitae on marriage and family are 50 years old, they remain a key part of the New Evangelization in today’s culture, participants said.

“I think we all know that it touches us at our core and we all know that it’s the answer to what has so gone wrong in our culture,” Teresa Kenney, a woman’s health nurse practitioner with the Pope Paul VI Institute and symposium speaker, told CNA.

But it’s not enough to just talk about Humanae Vitae, Kenney said, it needs to be lived out in the Christian community.

She said that she experiences the teachings of Humanae Vitae in the interactions that she has with each woman she encounters. “I feel so blessed and so grateful to be doing what I’m doing.”

The Pope Paul VI Institute is an international research, education, medical, and service center based in Omaha, Nebraska that provides women with fertility care via the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System and NaProTechnology reproductive care, which “embodies the best principles of medicine and offers superior treatments to women and challenges mainstream medicine, which relies on contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and abortion.”

In her work there, Kenney said she has found that the biggest hurdle preventing people from accepting Church teaching and natural family planning methods is the false idea of full autonomy and freedom offered by contraception.

“We’re born and bred in this culture that you have personal freedom, and that really you should be able (to do whatever) as long as you’re not hurting anybody else,” Kenney said. But the best way Kenney has found to reach women “is just letting them know that it’s important to know about their body,” and by talking about the negative side effects of contraception that many women have personally experienced.

“We have to (help people) perceive the connection between love and life as an ultimate good, and we have to have people move toward it,” she added. “And as they move closer to the foundation of Humanae Vitae, we don’t need to do anything else because it changes the culture itself.”

Joel Feldpausch works as a missionary with The Culture Project International, a mission organization that speaks to high school and middle school students about virtue, dignity and sexual integrity.

As a missionary working with young people, Feldpausch said he decided to come to the symposium because understanding and communicating the truth of Humanae Vitae is essential in his mission to youth.

“The most fascinating thing about my job in dealing with middle schoolers and high schoolers is that Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s vision, the warnings of Our Lady of Fatima, the writings of John Paul II - they become more relevant,” he said.

Feldpausch said his approach to speaking to young people is to flip on its head the cultural narrative that suggests total autonomy and the freedom to do whatever one chooses are the keys to happiness.

“You’re finding now in our world, people are accomplishing those things that they think will make them happy, and they’re getting to that point and they’re realizing that they’re not happy,” he said.

“So it’s beautiful and enlightening to introduce them to [Humanae Vitae] and say hey, I understand where you're coming from...but what if this Church and this faith and this beauty and love and truth...what if that is where your freedom lies? What if that is your fulfillment lies? Just think about that, just think for a minute.”

Reghan Methe, a student at Benedictine College, said she came to the symposium to learn how she could practically apply the teachings of Humanae Vitae in the world.

“I am interested in how to implement all these things that we’re learning here, because we have all of these great classes but that can keep it in a very abstract or intellectual level,” she told CNA. “So a lot of people here, with the primary focus being evangelization, it helps to make what you’re learning more concrete.”

Michele Chambers, who teaches Natural Family Planning in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, told CNA that she found that the symposium was a time to learn from and reconnect with like-minded people before going back to the mission field.

“To have these myriads of people here all on the same team - which when you’re in your individual dioceses and parishes, you don’t see that as much - it's nice to come and get filled so you can go back and try and do your job a bit better,” Chambers said.

She said the teachings of the encyclical continue to be relevant “because even 50 years later, we’re still struggling, and we struggled for years before,” she said. “Trying to live Humanae Vitae is a very difficult thing no matter what year you’re born in, and we have to give people that sign of hope that it can be done.”

US State Department honors Italian nun as a 'Woman of Courage'

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 15:06

Washington D.C., Mar 26, 2018 / 01:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Italian nun working in war-torn parts of Africa was honored at the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage award ceremony last week, commended for her dedicated service to the poor and to internally displaced persons.

“Sister Maria Elena is being honored for her service to counter hatred, injustice, and war-related horrors,” said Heather Nauert, department spokesperson, at the award ceremony held March 23 at the Dean Acheson Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

“She has provided refuge to those internally displaced people by conflict; and her tireless work to bring peace in the Central African Republic. Thank you, Sister,” Nauert continued.

Sister Maria Elena Berini, a Catholic nun from Italy who serves with the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Anthide Thouret, was born in 1944. She developed a deep sense of compassion and service from a young age, when she left school at 15 to work in a textile factory to help support her family.

Berini entered novitiate at age 19 and began delving into religious and educational training. After voicing her desire to serve in Africa, she was sent to Chad in 1972 to teach in rural areas, often under the threat of violence and war.

Despite the horrors and injustices she witnessed first-hand, Berini came to love the African people and their culture. In 2007, she was transferred to a Catholic mission in Bocaranga, Central African Republic, where she has been working with internally displaced persons who are seeking refuge from conflict.

Berini, now 74, still works in CAR with those displaced by the war and remains hopeful for peace within the region.

“As the United States Ambassador to the Holy See, I am especially honored to be here today with Sister Maria Elena Berini,” said Callista Gingrich during the awards reception.

“Sister, your steadfast devotion to peace and justice, on behalf of the most vulnerable, is truly inspirational. Thank you for all that you do,” Gingrich continued.

Gingrich went on to commend all the women at the awards ceremony, and thanked them for their bravery, compassion, and “efforts to make our world a better place.”

Berini was one among ten honorees at the International Women of Courage ceremony, including Dr. Julissa Villanueva, a forensic pathologist from Honduras; Godelieve Mukasarasi who has been working for peace in Rwanda; Aliyah Khalaf Saleh, who saved a number of Iraqi military troops by hiding them from the Islamic State; and Aiman Umarova, who fights against sexual abuse of women and children in Kazakhstan.
The International Women of Courage award ceremony is now in its 12th year. It focuses on recognizing “women around the globe who have demonstrated exception courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice,” according to the U.S. Department of State.

First Lady Melania Trump also addressed the group of honorees, saying that “their examples define courage,” and they have “shown incredible courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, quality, and women’s empowerment.”

“Courage sets apart those who believe in higher calling and those who act on it. It takes courage not only to see wrong, but strive to right it. Courage is what sets apart the heroes from the rest,” Trump said.

“The women of courage we honor here today are heroes.”