On the final day of the 2022 Baptist World Alliance annual gathering, the BWA presented the 2022 Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award to Daniel L. Buttry. Established in 2006, the annual award is given by the BWA for significant and effective activities to secure, protect, restore, or preserve human rights.
Considering himself a “peace warrior,” Buttry has devoted his life to conflict transformation, nonviolence, and peacebuilding. A Baptist pastor, denominational leader, and missionary, he is a global advocate in the ministry of reconciliation.
“Thank you so much for this very special award,” said Buttry. “I am humbled especially as I worked with Denton Lotz on a major Baptist body mediation, and as I have worked closely with some other awardees, especially Wati Aier, Gustavo Parajón, and Glen Stassen. I am honored to be in their company.”
Receiving the award in Birmingham was a meaningful experience for Buttry with a poignant connection to his participation in a Baptist Peace Fellowship gathering years before.
“The last time I was in Birmingham was on the 30th Anniversary of the Birmingham chapter of the Civil Rights Movement. In our Baptist Peace Fellowship gathering, we met Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the leader of the struggle in this city and the one who invited Dr. King here,” said Buttry. “I have a photo that has been over my desk since then of Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, and Fred Shuttlesworth leading a march in their ‘going to jail’ clothes. As you know, Dr. King ended up arrested and penned his amazing ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ not far from here. You could say these brothers have been among that great cloud of witnesses inspiring me as I’ve run my leg of the race.”
Buttry has facilitated mediation efforts around the world, especially in Myanmar and India. From 1989-1992, he served as the only non-Burmese citizen of the Burma Peace Committee which mediated between the military government and the ethnic insurgent groups. He also headed a team of international peacemakers from USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Thailand that supported the peace process in Myanmar.
Since 1996, he has worked to bring about peace for the Nagas in northern India and northwest Myanmar. He mediated between warring Naga insurgent groups that resulted in an informal cease-fire and a Covenant of Reconciliation. He trained Naga leaders in negotiation so they could enter into political talks with the Government of India, and worked with Naga NGOs, churches, and civic organizations to develop a nonviolent peace movement called “The Journey of Conscience” which changed the public dynamics of the conflict between the Nagas and the Indian Government.
In addition to his mediation work, Buttry has had significant global impact as a trainer and mentor. He has led trainings in each of the six BWA regions around the world, reaching from Bolivia to Bosnia and Ukraine to the United States. Traveling to more than 35 countries, he has helped individuals, churches, and communities pursue peace through Gospel-centered conflict transformation and interfaith mediation. This legacy of training and equipping was further solidified by Central Baptist Theological Seminary with the launch of The Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence in May 2018. The Buttry Center’s mission is to theologically engage, educate, and connect people of faith in seeking justice, nurturing peace, and caring for creation.
“So many of God’s people invested in me, and it has been a joy to invest into the rising generations of leaders, especially Baptists but many other Christians as well as people of other religions. Human rights, peace, and justice are not Baptist matters alone. They are human matters, and – if we look at Jesus – they are God’s matters as well,” said Buttry. “So my hope and joy is to see a bit of what some of these younger leaders are already doing in the areas of peace, justice, and human rights. They are doing amazing work around the world, and someday some of them might stand before the BWA to receive this very award.”
Buttry has authored numerous books on peacemaking, lectured, and preached extensively, and helped organize three global Baptist peace conferences. He has helped build a more just and peaceful world through his role as Global Consultant for Peace and Justice for International Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA, on staff with the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, and as a founder of Interfaith Partners in Detroit, Michigan.
Throughout his ministry, he has given honor to the many people who have served alongside him, most notably his wife Sharon who has co-labored with him for many years.
“I thank my wife Sharon who easily could have been a co-recipient of this award with me,” said Buttry. “Sharon has been my companion on the journey of faith and service for over 50 years, including some of our global peace and justice work.”