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Since 2006, news website Protestante Digital gives the award to non-Protestant Spaniards who work for religious freedom and coexistence.
José Luis Villacañas, Professor of Philosophy at the Complutense University of Madrid has been announced as the 2019 ‘Unamuno Prize: Friend of Protestants’.
The award is given by the Spanish news website Protestant Digital. Since 2006, it honours a person or social institution that, not being of Protestant or evangelical faith, has made a significant contribution in favour of plurality, coexistence and religious freedom.
Among the achievements of Villacañas is to be the organiser of the Congress of the Spanish Reformation, an initiative he has been leading in the university context for more than a decade, which is “an unequalled contribution in the study and the historic research of the Protestant reality in the last five centuries both in Spain and in Latin America”.
Villacañas’ latest book ‘Empirephilia and the National Catholic Populism’ (2019) addresses and responds to a new popular trend in Spain that aims to re-write the country’s darkest moments of history, downplaying episodes such as the Inquisition and the disastrous effects it had on minorities such as Jews and Protestants. His book is a response to historian Elvira Roca Barea, the main voice of this nationalist and revisionist approach to the past of Spain. Roca Barea has been backed by major political parties in the last few years, such as new parties Ciudadanos (centre-right) and Vox (far-right).
The Professor is also author of dozens of articles and several other books on history, philosophy and current issues. Read an interview with Villacañas here (in Spanish).
HISTORY OF THE ‘UNAMUNO PRIZE’
José Luis Villacañas is the last in a list of 12 people who have been given the ‘Unamuno Prize: Friend of Protestants’. It was previously awarded to personalities such as novelist Antonio Muñoz Molina, former Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, journalist José María Calviño and artistic protector Pilar Fernández Labrador, among others.
The prize will officially be presented in January 2020. It is an initiative of Areópago Protestante, the media platform to which Protestante Digital, Evangelical Focus and Evangélico Digital belong. It is supported by the RZ Foundation for the Dialogue between Faith and Culture.
The name of the prize refers to the strong friendship between 20th century intellectual Miguel de Unamuno and the Protestant Atilano Coco. Unamuno defended religious freedom during the Civil War, and tried everything he could to avoid Coco to be executed by the Francisco Franco regime. The blockbuster film ‘Mientras dure la guerra’ (in English, While at War), now in cinemas in Spain and elsewhere, accurately shows Unamuno’s efforts to save his Protestant friend.
Spanish media such as news agencies EFE, Europa Press and newspaper La Vanguardia echoed the announcement of the prize for Villacañas.