Press Release

Rothko Chapel announces 2017 Óscar Romero Award Recipients

October 23, 2017

Rothko Chapel announces 2017 Óscar Romero Award Recipients

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa and Kathryn Griffin Griñán honored for their tireless efforts to reform the Criminal Justice System

HOUSTON – Oct. 23, 2017 – The 2017 Óscar Romero Award Ceremony and Celebration is slated for 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12.

The event, which will be held at the Rothko Chapel, 3900 Yupon. honors two leaders –Pierre Claver Mbonimpa from Burundi, East Africa and Kathryn Griffin Griñán from Houston

Both individuals are being recognized for sharing the spirit of the late Archbishop Óscar Romero of San Salvador, who worked tirelessly to fight against social injustice.

Building on the Chapel’s 2017 Spring Symposium "An Act of Justice - Undoing the Legacy of Mass Incarceration," this year’s awardees are working toward criminal justice reform locally and globally. 

The program will include a keynote address by Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner for Precinct One and remarks from both remarkable honorees.

Following the ceremony there will be catered public reception outside on the plaza.

This event is especially unique, as 2017 marks both the 30-year anniversary of the awards and the centennial of Romero’s birth. The late archbishop is also being considered by the Catholic Church for canonization as a saint. He was beatified with a service in El Salvador in 2015, which is the final step before sainthood.

About the Rothko Chapel Óscar Romero Award

Guided by founder Dominique de Menil, the Chapel established the award in 1986 to commemorate the life and honor the sacrifice of Óscar Arnulfo Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador.

A vocal advocate for the poor and oppressed in El Salvador and beyond, Archbishop Romero was murdered by an assassin from the repressive forces while he was saying Mass on March 24, 1980.

The Óscar Romero Award recognizes an individual or organization whose selfless courage and commitment to human rights have made a profound difference to the human race. Previously, the award has been given13 times to 16 different individuals or organizations in recognition of their valiant efforts in the area of human rights. 

de Menil said at the presentation of the second Óscar Romero Award in 1988, truth calls us both not to avoid criticism and "to get used to new ways of thinking."

The hope with the Chapel’s programming in 2017 around Criminal Justice Reform is that it will invite the Houston community to discover our collective strength and allow us to support the type of reimagining and rebuilding efforts that will lead to an even more sustainable, livable and equitable world.

About the Awardees

The international awardee is Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, executive director of Association pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (Association for the Protection of Prisoners and Human Rights – APRODH) in Burundi. The organization documents and reports on human rights violations, with an emphasis on those committed against incarcerated people in Burundi.

Mbonimpa has been imprisoned and survived an assassination attempt after challenging government abuses, including sexual violence, torture and violations against incarcerated people.

The local award is being given to Houston-based recovery coach and peer-to-peer counselor Kathryn Griffin Griñán.  

Griffin Griñán advocates for rehabilitation funding versus incarceration in Congress, the Texas Legislature and the Harris County Commissioners' Court. She administers a re-entry program in the Harris County Sheriff's Office jail, helping rehabilitate victims of human trafficking and prostitution.

“Like Archbishop Romero, these honorees exemplify resiliency, as well as the commitment to address difficult social justice and human rights issues at the risk of both life and reputation,” Rothko Chapel executive director David Leslie said.

About the Keynote Speaker

Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner for Precinct One, previously served as representative for a Houston district in the Texas Senate for more than 25 years, advocating economic development, education, civil rights, responsible environmental policy and criminal justice reform.

About the Selection Process

When selecting an international recipient, the Chapel works with its board of directors, advisors in the field and the Fund for Global Human Rights in Washington, an international grant making fund that works to secure basic freedoms around the world by supporting frontline organizations which are challenging abuse to ensure “a strong, effective human rights community worldwide.”

About the 2017 Rothko Chapel’s Óscar Romero Award Pre-Program Series

Building up to the award ceremony on November 12, the Chapel planned programming that raised awareness on the topic of mass incarceration and creates context around each awardee’s work while also highlighting courageous and creative leaders who weave together spirituality, art and advocacy.

Thursday, November 2, 2017, 7:00 PM
Silencing Opposition: Human Rights Violations in Burundi
Conversation with Former Ambassador Robert Krueger, Dr. Methode Butoyi from the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, and Tony Tate, The Fund for Global Human Rights Program Officer

Monday, November 6, 2017, 7:00 PM
Double Jeopardy: Women and the Criminal Justice System
Conversation with UK journalist Julie Bindel and Angela’s House Dr. Andrea Link, moderated by Lise Olsen 

For more information about the Rothko Chapel’s Óscar Romero Award, visit

For the Chapel's full calendar of upcoming programs, workshops and events, visit or call 713-524-9839.

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