News of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pittsburgh area, counsel from its leaders, and reflections from its members.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Who is this remarkable woman? Read more about Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, member of the United Kingdom House of Lords, founder of AMAR Foundation, and awardee of an honorary Doctor of International Leadership and Humanitarian Service from Brigham Young University.

Photo by Molly Peterson

The audience hushed as Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne began her acceptance speech for an honorary doctorate at Brigham Young University's recent commencement ceremonies. With heartfelt expressions of gratitude and words of compassion about the world's forgotten, she captivated the crowd. Her beautiful British dialect and countenance alone convinced all that she was someone extraordinary. One of Britain's best-known politicians, she also has a long-standing relationship with many leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Holland said of her "She has embraced wholeheartedly the Savior's teaching that if [we] have done it unto the least of those among us, we have done it unto Him". Elder Holland was invited to speak at Windsor Castle in September of 2016 to a conference on religious persecution and forced migration. Additionally, in 2015, he addressed a group at the UK Parliament on humanitarian efforts. Baroness Nicholson addressed BYU that same year.

Among her many other accomplishments, the Baroness founded the AMAR Foundation 25 years ago, which provides aid and public support for refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East. AMAR stands for Assisting Marsh Arabs and Refugees. The word amar also translates as "the builder" in some Arabic dialects, reminding people of the Foundation's central mission of rebuilding lives. In the words of Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: "Baroness Nicholson is an absolutely fearless advocate for people who have no one else to speak for them...she has used her position and platform to shut down human trafficking, increase protections of religious rights, and to open doors for families caught in conflict. Her work in the marshlands of Iraq attracted the attention of the Church's humanitarian organization, LDS Charities".  For the past 8 years, LDS Charities together with AMAR has worked to build health clinics and schools, and help victims of sexual violence in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Particularly touching in Baroness Nicholson's speech was her recollection of a child she encountered in a small front line hospital in Mosul, Iraq. She had just supervised equipping the hospital with every possible need to help those injured. She saw a tiny boy around two or three years of age, miserable, completely silent and motionless, sitting on one of the beds that had just been delivered. What had happened? Why had the boy distanced himself so completely from people? His mother pointed to his scalp of black hair, where there were patches of bare skin. She said that ISIL (Iraqi terrorist organization) had come in and picked the child up by the hair and swung him around like a toy, again and again. He hadn't spoken since. A nearby cameraman gently leaned forward and took a picture of the child. He turned his camera around and let the child see the picture. The boy's eyes caught his own face. He looked, and suddenly, he smiled. In Baroness Nicholson's words "A wonderful moment to remind us all that saving just one life - giving that little boy hope - is worth all of the effort we can put in."

"Count me in as one of you," said this woman of great achievement and compassion to the audience. What an honor to do so, and as a Church, what a statement our relationship with her is to promoting interfaith partnerships that help our world become a more peaceful and humane place for all mankind.