Lifetime Achievement Award
On Thursday 28th November, Yusuf was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award by TRT, the Turkish Radio and Television corporation. Their World Citizen campaign seeks to recognise those who show great empathy and compassion for their fellow human beings, a respect for diversity and a desire to create positive change in the world.
The 2019 event focused upon Women of War recognising that women are often the most persecuted, stigmatised and exposed group when it comes to the horrors of war and conflict. Those honoured at the ceremony included: Hawa Aden Mohamed, who has dedicated over 20 years to empowering Somali refugee women to helping them improve their lives; Reyhan Jamalova, a 15 year old who has developed a system called ‘Rainergy’ that harnesses the power of rain to provide electricity to impoverished communities; and Fatemah Alabad who supported her daughter, Bana, in using social media to convey the tragedies experienced in Aleppo to the wider world.
The final award of the evening, The Lifetime Achievement Award, was presented to Yusuf by The First Lady of Turkey, Emine Erdogan. He was commended for his lifelong commitment to peace and for the exceptional humanitarian work he has undertaken across many decades that has focused upon women and children as the most vulnerable victims of conflict and natural disasters.
In his acceptance speech Yusuf spoke about the concept of progress. He highlighted the growing swell of protests that are happening across the planet fuelled by a sense of economic injustice and ecological negligence. He drew upon the words of Greta Thunberg when criticising the dominant global economic model:
“Eternal economic growth is a fairytale.” – Yusuf
Yusuf explored the myth that the pre-industrial world was stagnant and somewhat backwards and that it is industrialisation and material growth that has brought us progress. Yusuf reflected that he too was once gripped by the idea that money and material success constituted progress in his life but that by the mid ‘70s and the height of his fame as Cat Stevens he had grown to realise that such things left him feeling empty.
“I didn’t progress by getting more records sold. I progressed when I opened my heart to the one who created me and bowed.” – Yusuf
It was his discovery of Islam that allowed Yusuf to see a whole new picture and to understand that true progress came through achieving peace, both on an individual level and also for mankind on a global level. However, he did note that there are many Muslims in the world who are not doing justice to this message and urged all to pursue a path of pure peace.
“You will not enter heaven until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you what will increase love between you? Spread salam (peace)” – The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
To conclude Yusuf addressed the prevailing notion that we should all be seeking happiness as if it is somehow the answer to our problems and the only thing worth aiming for. He explained that the true path to happiness is through goodness and that our technological advancements will not take us to that place of goodness.
“Happiness is not the only goal. Goodness, goodness is the goal. Because when you achieve goodness you achieve happiness and it’s not necessarily the other way round.” – Yusuf
Yusuf thanked TRT, all of those in attendance, especially the worthy recipients of awards, and wished everyone peace.
Read Yusuf’s full acceptance speech here: https://catstevens.com/think/joseph-exploring/age-of-crises/