On Thursday night, Dr. Rami Nashashibi, the founder and director of the (IMAN), was named the first place winner of the 2018 Opus Prize. Nashashibi and his nonprofit will receive one million dollars in prize money.
IMAN works to help marginalized communities in Chicago and Atlanta through the framework of the Muslim faith tradition. The nonprofit provides a range of services, including job training for formerly incarcerated individuals, arts and culture projects, and health and counseling centers.
“It’s an extraordinary validation of the type of work that is a life commitment by so many that both are working with us now and that have come before us,” Nashashibi said. “People who never lost hope, lost love, lost faith, lost compassion — it’s those people that made it possible for people like me to do this work and for organizations like IMAN to exist.”
Each of the finalists spoke about their organization and also expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of the Opus Prize before President Fr. Mark Poorman announced the winner. The other two organizations, from Peru and from India, will both receive $100,000.
“The driving force for his compassionate, transformational leadership is his faith,” senior Ezedin Jabr said during his introduction of Nashashibi. “Through his love and dedication to his faith, he has restored the faith of others.” Jabr conducted his site visit in Chicago and worked closely with Nashashibi and IMAN.
During his acceptance speech, Nashashibi’s joy was palpable. He brought up to the stage members of IMAN who traveled with him to Portland, expressed his gratitude to the Opus Prize and cited Martin Luther King Jr. With a smile, he referred to the other finalists as his brothers and sisters.
“We stand with you,” he said. “This award could not be more humbling for us by the fact that we shared this moment with you.”
Nashashibi said that he plans to use the money to grow and expand IMAN’s and to continue to fight against the stereotypes formerly incarcerated individuals in Chicago face. He also said, as a result of being a finalist for the Opus Prize, IMAN had already received $300,000 in commitments for the next year.
The night also included a surprise for all three finalists on behalf of the University of Portland. Chair of the Board of Regents, Thomas Arndorfer, said that over the next three years, the university would commit to paying the airfare for two individuals from each organization to travel to the locations of the other two Opus Prize finalists.
Arndorfer said that this was a gift of gratitude from the university and he hopes that this will help to keep the finalists connected. After the announcement, the crowd applauded and cheered while the finalists embraced each other on stage.
The partners with a Catholic university each year to recognize unsung heroes across the globe who are creating positive change in their communities. In 2017, the Opus Prize partnered with UP. Last spring, student and faculty ambassadors traveled to the locations of the finalists and experienced firsthand the change these community leaders are making through their organizations.
Even though the ceremony marked the end of the 2018 Opus Prize, the lasting impact on the university was clear.
“Tonight is the end of the prologue,” Director of the Dundon-Berchtold Institute for Moral Formation and Applied Ethics Daniel McGinty said. “The story continues.”
Madison Pfeifer is a news reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com.