Greg MortensonGreg Mortenson has received the 18th annual Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice for his work promoting peace and building schools for children, especially girls, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Since a 1993 climb on Pakistan’s K2, Greg Mortenson has dedicated his life to promoting community-based education and literacy programs, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the co-founder and Executive Director of nonprofit Central Asia Institute www.ikat.org and the founder of “Pennies For Peace,” www.penniesforpeace.org.

Mortenson is well known as the co-author of the New York Times best-sellers, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School At A Time and Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan www.stonesintoschools.com.

Since 1994, Mortenson and the CAI have worked in close cooperation with tribal villagers to complete 131 schools in many provinces of the two countries. The schools that Greg Mortenson, the CAI, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan have built together are currently educating about 58,000 students. Most of those schoolchildren are girls, a fact with immense implications for progress in human rights, the development of community, and the prospects for peace in these traditional Muslim countries.

So successful and impressive are Mortenson’s approaches and achievements in Afghanistan and Pakistan that many higher-ranking officers of both our State Department and our military are required to read his books. Mortenson’s work with the people of central Asia is driven by his desire to help the inhabitants of a rugged part of the world that he had come to love after being rescued and nursed back to health by the villagers of Korphe following a failed attempt to climb K2.

Mortenson is not a naïve pacifist. Twice he had hostile fatwas issued against him; he was held captive for eight days by independent, tribal Waziris; and he witnessed the refugee camps in Pakistan filled with thousands of ordinary Muslims who had fled in terror as the fanatical Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in the late 1990’s. But he believes that only careful, constructive, grassroots initiatives aimed at educating and strengthening the moderate majority of Pakistanis and Afghans will build communities capable of countering tyranny and extremism, as well as the ignorance and hopelessness that enable fanaticisms.

Mortenson is a military veteran, and when not overseas, he lives in Montana with his two children and wife, Dr. Tara Bishop. Learn more!