2020 Peaceseeker Award goes to Michelle Muñiz-Vega


Honoree is disaster recovery coordinator in Puerto Rico

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has announced that its 2020 Peaceseeker Award will go to Michelle Muñiz-Vega, the disaster recovery coordinator in the Presbytery of San Juan. The organization will honor her during a June 24 breakfast at General Assembly. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — A woman who’s been instrumental in helping Presbyterians to understand systemic issues facing Puerto Rico and the effects of decades of colonialism and exploitation has been selected to receive the 2020 Peaceseeker Award.

Michelle Muñiz-Vega, the disaster recovery coordinator in the Presbytery of San Juan, has been selected to receive the honor from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF), a network of peacemakers who engage with issues in the United States and abroad.

PPF has given out the award each year for nearly 50 years to call attention to and celebrate Presbyterians who are making a significant contribution to peace, according to its announcement.

Muñiz-Vega’s selection is a reflection of her outstanding leadership, according to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) staff members who know her.

Muñiz-Vega is a former Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) site coordinator in Miami whose current position is funded by a grant from PDA.

“I have seen her grow and develop into this amazing leader,” said Edwin González-Castillo, PDA’s Associate for Disaster Response for Latin America and the Caribbean. The Peaceseeker Award is “a great way to recognize her work and her service to the church.”

In her capacity as a disaster recovery coordinator, Muñiz-Vega is a vital resource for Presbyterian delegations and other groups who come to Puerto Rico to assist with rebuilding and to get educated about the area.

“One of her responsibilities is to work with the volunteer host site at the Monteflores Presbyterian Church,” said James Kirk, PDA’s Associate for Disaster Response in the U.S. and territories. “Multiple groups (mostly but not all Presbyterian) have stayed at the host site and participated in Maria rebuilding.”

“Through Michelle’s efforts, the volunteer work teams travelling to Puerto Rico return with a much better understanding that wholeness takes more than a new roof,” Kirk added.  “Wholeness involves justice and a willingness to address the harm that was caused before Hurricane Maria.”

Muñiz-Vega told the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship that delegations that come to do recovery work have an opportunity to learn about the history and political dynamics in Puerto Rico.

“But that’s just the beginning of the work,” she notes in PPF’s announcement. “My hope is that people will go home and keep doing the work to learn about the history of Puerto Rico and how we can work together for a more just relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico.”

Muñiz-Vega’s activism also has included leading a delegation with Fossil Free PCUSA and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship to learn about climate-justice efforts in Puerto Rico.

“Climate justice is ministry,” she told PPF. “It’s peace work; it’s not a committee or a sub-group. It is our work as the Church.”

PDA Director the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus says Muñiz-Vega’s passion for justice is contagious, according to the award announcement.

Through Muñiz-Vega’s leadership, “volunteers and U.S. congregations have been awakened to the systemic injustices that keep Puerto Ricans from achieving equity alongside their U.S. neighbors,” Kraus said, “and have had the opportunity to develop transforming relationships across boundaries that have impeded full and just relationships between ourselves and our neighbors on the Island.”

The 2019 and 2020 Peaceseeker awards will be presented at the PPF Peace Breakfast on June 24 when the 224th General Assembly of PC(USA) gathers in Baltimore. 

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