(RNS) — When Edna Adan Ismail, the winner of the 2023 Templeton Prize, began working as a nurse and midwife in 1960s Somalia, she was horrified by the pain and medical complications she saw in patients who’d experienced female genital mutilation.Her indignation simmered until 1976, when as director of Somalia’s Ministry of Health, she attended a health conference in Sudan where, for the first time, she heard Muslim believers openly condemn FGM.
That message changed everything for Ismail.
“I doubt I would have had the courage or the ability to speak out against FGM if I had not trained as a nurse and if I had not heard from the medical doctor in the Sudan and from the Muslim congregation attending the health conference in Khartoum that FGM was against the teachings of Islam,” Ismail, 85, said in an email to Religion News Service.
Decades later, Ismail is known as a fierce advocate who condemns FGM because of, not despite, her Muslim faith. Ismail is also founder of the Edna Adan University and Edna Adan Hospital, which has reduced the maternal mortality rate in Somaliland by up to 75%.
The Templeton Prize, which comes with an award of 1.1 million British pounds (more than $1.3 million), was established by the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Te …
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