|By LISA TSERING|
India-West Staff Reporter
Dr. Dhiraj H. Shah, a retired radiologist near Buffalo, NY, has been selected as a recipient of the 2008 Ellis Island Medal of Honor, according to a Mar. 24 press release from Jaina, the Federation of Jain Associations in North America.
Shah, who became one of the first Indian Americans to win conscientious objector status in 1970 when he refused to fight during the Vietnam War, has long worked for peace.
Asked by a reporter if he would use this opportunity to make a statement about the state of world peace, Shah said, "Absolutely."
"There is no question that I will speak out for peace," the 64-year-old Shah told India-West April 1 from his home in Grand Island, NY. "All my life, I have tried to help the disadvantaged and underprivileged."
He will receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor at a ceremony May 10 on Ellis Island in New York City. The Ellis Island Medals of Honor are given out each year by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations Foundation, Inc., at the location in which millions of immigrants historically first set foot on United States soil.
According to a statement on the NECO Web site, the awards are "designed to pay homage to the immigrant experience, as well as for individual achievement. The honorees are remarkable Americans who exemplify outstanding qualities in both their personal and professional lives, while continuing to preserve the richness of their particular heritage."
This year's recipients have not been publicly named (and a NECO representative could not be reached by press time), but Dilip V. Shah, president of Jaina, contacted India-West with the news and a copy of the letter from NECO to Dhiraj Shah.
It is not known how many individuals will receive this year's Medal of Honor.
Shah was awarded the Jain Ratna award in 2001 by Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee, and has also been quite active in Indian American, Jain and medical groups here and in India.
He earned medical degrees at Gujarat University and at State University of New York before becoming a Fellow of the International College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.
A past president of Jaina and the current chairman of Jaina's World Community Service program, Shah is on the boards of the Rotary Club of Niagara Falls and the India Association of Buffalo, and is a trustee with the Hindu Cultural Society of Western New York.
He has been a director of Jaina for 20 years and has a long and impressive list of humanitarian activities to his name that includes helping Tsunami, drought, flood and earthquake victims; donating hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical equipment to clinics in India; building a school in Andamans/Nicobar Island for Tsunami-affected youth, and many, many other projects. In January 2008 he traveled to Kucch, Gujarat, to participate in a medical camp, where he treated hundreds of indigent patients.
"Human beings are blessed by the Lord with the power of empathy, so that we can feel the pain of other human beings," he told India-West. "I just try to help others."
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