Mayor goes to Rome, Italy to invite Nobel Peace Laureates to Atlanta

By Maria Saporta

A scaled-down 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Summit was held after all.

A group of less than 10 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, joined by other dignitaries, gathered in Rome this past weekend to make sure a 2014 Summit took place.

Atlanta will be hosting the 2015 Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates from Nov. 15 to Nov. 19 at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Originally the 2014 Summit had been scheduled to be held in Cape Town, South Africa – partly as a way to honor the late Nelson Mandela. But when the South African government failed to extend an invitation to the Dalai Lama because of pressure from China, six Nobel Peace laureates pulled out of the event – causing the whole South African summit – scheduled from Oct. 13 to Oct. 15 – to be canceled.

The Rome Summit – held Dec. 12 to Dec. 14 – was not without controversy – partly related to the Dalai Lama.

The big news coming out the 2014 Summit was the refusal by Pope Francis to hold a meeting with the Dalai Lama for fear of upsetting China. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the people of Tibet, which the Chinese government does not recognize. The Pope has been trying to improve the Vatican’s relations with China.

The situation is expected to be quite different when the 2015 Summit comes to Atlanta. The Dalai Lama is a frequent and welcome visitor to the city, and he has a long-standing relationship with Emory University. He is one of several existing Nobel Laureates with close ties to Atlanta.

Because Atlanta will be hosting the Summit, Mayor Kasim Reed went to Rome to make sure all the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates knew they were welcome to come to his city next year.

In a report outlining the concluding session of the 14th annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Reed officially invited delegates to Atlanta and mentioned that Georgia is proud to have had two Nobel Peace Laureates – Martin Luther King Jr. and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

“I look forward to more fruitful conversation in 2015,” Reed reportedly said. “I won’t forget my time in Rome. I’m grateful to you all.”

Reed went to Rome with Laura Turner Seydel, who has been working closely with the organizing committee that is putting on the Atlanta Summit.

But Mohammad Bhuiyan, CEO of Atlanta Summit organization, said he decided not to go because he thought his time would be better spent working on the plans here at home.

Plus, he said the seven or so Nobel Laureates who ended up going to Rome already have indicated that they will be coming to Atlanta. Of the 33 living Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, 26 have been contacted and already have been invited to attend.

“They are excited about coming to Atlanta,” Bhuiyan said.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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