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Worms Initiative

Following a proposal by the Protestant Deanery of Worms-Wonnegau, the former Lord Mayor of Worms, Gernot Fischer, initiated the prize in 1993 at a meeting of the Luther Cities marking the 125th anniversary of the Reformation Monument in Worms.  

Yara Badr accepts the 2015 Luther Prize in Wittenberg on behalf of her husband, Mazen Darwish, photo: City of Wittenberg 
Yara Badr accepts the 2015 Luther Prize in Wittenberg on behalf of her husband, Mazen Darwish, photo: City of Wittenberg

The Preamble to the Prize Statutes emphasises the central importance of the free word, beholden only to truth, in a liberal and democratic society.

At the time, this was intended to reflect the recent Peaceful Revolution in East Germany, which had used the fundamental human rights constituted in the Reformation and Enlightenment to counter the oppression of a totalitarian regime. 


Association of Luther Cities

The members in the 'Association of Luther Cities' are Augsburg, Coburg, Eisenach, Eisleben, Erfurt, Halle, Heidelberg, Magdeburg, Marburg, Nordhausen, Schmalkalden, Speyer, Torgau, Wittenberg, Worms and Zeitz. Besides the lord mayors and mayors of the Luther cities, the jury also includes the EKD Council President Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Ernst-Otto Czempiel from the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, Stefan Rhein, Director of the Luther Memorials Foundation in Saxony-Anhalt, Klaus Blümlein from the Evangelical Church of the Palatinate, Roland Hoffmann from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia, and the former Minister of State, Florian Gerster.

The criteria for awarding the prize are defined in the Statutes. The Luther Cities propose worthy recipients. Before this happens, residents of the cities submit their own suggestions.  The jury then decides on the prize winner.

Bisherige Preisträger:

  • Richard Schröder (1996), Protestant theologian and philosopher, 1977 to 1990 lecturer at the Ecclesiastical University of Naumburg and at the Theological Seminary in Berlin, and 1991 to 2008 professor at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, SPD member

  • Hans Küng (1999), Catholic theologian, 1960 to 1996 professor at the University of Tübingen, until 2013 President of the World Ethics Foundation, withdrawal of missio canonica in 1979 due to his criticism of the dogma of papal infallibility

  • Uta Leichsenring (2001), Police President of Eberswalde, honoured for her fight against right-wing extremism

  • Gertraud Knoll (2003), Protestant theologian, 1994 first female Superintendent for Burgenland in Austria, honoured for her commitment to the struggle against right-wing populism and a referendum on social issues, member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ)

  • Stephan Krawczyk (2005), songwriter and author, GDR dissident, 1985 departure from the SED, occupational ban, arrest and deportation in 1988

  • Emel Zeynelabidin (2007), Muslim, daughter to the founder of Mili Görüs (IGMG) in Germany, co-founder of an Islamic kindergarten and primary school in Berlin, removed her hijab during the controversial debate on the wearing of head scarves in 2005, criticism of patriarchal religious structures

  • Andrea Röpke (2009), political scientist and journalist, awarded the prize for her commitment to the fight against right-wing extremism; numerous reports from the right-wing milieu, member of the Union of Victims of Nazi Persecution, expert in the NSU select committee

  • Dimitry Muratov and the editorial team at 'Novaya Gazeta' (2011), 1993 co-founder of the newspaper 'Novaya Gazeta', chief editor, critical reporting on Russian politics; employees of the newspaper were persecuted, injured or murdered (including Anna Politkovskaya in 2006); the 2015 closure of the print edition

  • Regensburg initiative 'No Service for Nazis' (2013), founded in 2010 after a racially-motivated attack on a Regensburg bar keeper; information brochures and stickers in 199 establishments in Regensburg

  • Mazen Darwish and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (2015), Syrian lawyer and journalist, President of the 'Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE)', which was founded in 2004; arrested in 2008, acquitted in 2015