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2003 Peacemaker Award

At a time when religious differences are at the root of much of the strife around the world, Sr. Martha Ann Kirk is working to increase understanding among people of different faiths.

Sr. Kirk, a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of the Incarnate Word, has been recognized for her tireless work as one of this year’s recipients of the annual Peacemaker Awards. The prestigious award from the San Antonio Bar Foundation celebrates and recognizes those individuals in San Antonio and the region who have contributed to peacemaking efforts and made a notable difference in the community.

Sister Kirk was cited for her work in building bridges between people of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths through educational events that provide people with opportunities to forge relationships of tolerance and understanding, and also for promoting peace among all countries.

“ I believe that multicultural and global education invites people to stretch beyond their own nationalism, religion, and social experiences and is not only important at UIW, but also is important for the future of the world,” said Sr. Kirk, who has taught religion at some level since 1968.

Dr. Denise J. Doyle, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, formally nominated Sr. Kirk for the Peacemaker Award. The two have worked together in the UIW Justice and Peace graduate program and also the Religious Studies program, and have collaborated in numerous campus and community-wide activities.

“ She demonstrates considerable leadership and influence in our campus community and throughout the world community of religious leaders,” said Dr. Doyle. “She is a remarkable teacher, a rare person who views every student as a uniquely gifted individual.”

Sister Kirk, who holds a Th.D. in Theology and the Arts from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA., is a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. She believes she is building on the Congregation’s long body of work in promoting understanding among people of different backgrounds.

Four years ago she was an organizer of a conference titled “Understanding Islam and the Arab World, and Jewish-Muslim Relationships.” The friendships she made at the conference developed into a Tri-faith dialogue of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, a group that meets monthly. Barbie Groelick, a Jewish religious educator, founded the group and has worked together with Sr. Kirk on various other projects.

Through her participation in the group, Sr. Kirk has gained the trust of the members and developed relationships that have been a resource for educational programs benefiting the community. She also credits the leadership of Groelick for her success.

“ I share this award with Barbie, her hard work and involvement with the Middle East,” said Sr. Kirk. “One award shared by two people.”

In addition to numerous academic achievements and awards while at UIW, Sr. Kirk has served as the coordinator of the undergraduate Religious Studies program and co-director of the graduate Justice and Peace Studies Program. She also was a scholar in-residence at Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem in 1995 and has led study tours to the biblical lands several times.

Sister Kirk is also a past Moody Professor (outstanding teacher). She also has received numerous grants from a variety of organizations, including one from the Fourth Freedom Forum, which seeks nonviolent resolutions to international conflicts.

The San Antonio Bar Foundation, a nonprofit organization concerned about violence and hostility in our city and region, has sponsored the Peacemaker Awards since 1995. The Peacemaker Award Dinner, which was held on March 1, is the group’s major fundraiser. It also sponsors the Peer Mediation Program that helps 105 schools train young people in conflict resolution methods.