The Selection Committee for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity has today announced the names of the five 2017 finalists who have been chosen for their exceptional impact, courage and commitment to preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes. They are:
- Ms. Fartuun Adan and Ms. Ilwad Elman, Founders of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, Somalia – Mother and daughter who are unwavering in their mission to protect human rights, women’s rights, and facilitate peace building, development and the rehabilitation of child soldiers amidst insecure and dangerous conditions
- Ms. Jamila Afghani, Chairperson of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization, Afghanistan – A polio victim who accidentally received the gift of reading and has dedicated her life to bringing reading and education to girls and women, while enlisting the help of Muslim leaders of faith in her mission.
- Dr. Tom Catena, Surgeon at the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains, Sudan – A Catholic missionary and doctor who for nearly a decade remains the only permanent doctor to treat the remote and war-torn region’s half-million population, performing more than 1,000 operations each year
- Mr. Muhammad Darwish, Medical Doctor at the Madaya Field Hospital, Syria – A student of dentistry returned to his hometown and took on the full responsibilities of a medical doctor, began to perform medical procedures, offered care and maintained meticulous documentation of the conditions of patients, many of them children, affected by persisting violence, thus bringing international attention to the besieged area
- Dr. Denis Mukwege, Gynecological Surgeon and Founder of the Panzi Hospital, The Democratic Republic of the Congo – An obstetrician turned gynecological surgeon who is providing physical, psychological and legal support to more than 50,000 survivors of sexual violence in the war-torn country while fearlessly seeking to bring to justice those responsible
The finalists will be honored at the Aurora Prize Ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia on May 28, 2017 when one will be chosen as the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate. The Aurora Prize Laureate will receive a grant of US$100,000 to support the continuation of their work, as well as a US$1,000,000 award, which will give them the unique ability to continue the cycle of giving by supporting organizations that have inspired their work.
The Selection Committee, co-chaired by Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian George Clooney, includes Nobel Laureates Oscar Arias, Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee; former president of Ireland Mary Robinson; human rights activist Hina Jilani; former Foreign Minister of Australia and President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group Gareth Evans; and former president of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo. The Committee shortlisted the five finalists from more than 550 nominations for 254 unique candidates submitted by the general public from 66 countries and in 13 languages.
Speaking on behalf of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, Vartan Gregorian, Committee Member, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative said, “We are gratified by the enormous response generated by the call for nominations. It is an acknowledgment of our shared humanity and values. While geography and circumstances differ for each nominee, it is the similarities that unite them all. Individual human beings risk their own well-being and safety in order to rescue those in desperate need of help, and it is Aurora’s mission to support these saviors. We believe that those who are rescued will themselves continue the cycle of gratitude and giving.”
Marguerite Barankitse from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi was named the first Aurora Prize Laureate on April 24, 2016 in Yerevan, Armenia. Following the horrifying experience of being forced to witness the execution of 72 Hutu neighbors whom she tried to hide to keep safe from persecution, Ms. Barankitse, a Tutsi, has spent the last 20 years providing safe haven for orphans and refugees escaping violence and abuse during her country’s civil war. She has rescued and educated roughly 30,000 children, and the hospital she opened in 2008 has treated more than 80,000 patients to date.
“Children from Brazil to Ethiopia to the many Burundian refugees in Rwanda are thriving today because they now have the love, education and support they need, thanks to the generous backing of the 2016 Aurora Prize,” said Barankitse. “The powerful work of the 2017 finalists is truly awe-inspiring. These individuals embody the spirit of gratitude in action by keeping hope alive for so many of our brothers and sisters around the world. Their work is destined to unleash the human potential for love.”
The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was established in 2015 by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors. The Aurora Prize will honor an Aurora Laureate each year until 2023, in remembrance of the eight years of the Armenian Genocide (1915 -1923).