24 ապրիլ, 2017 14:50

Finalists of Aurora Prize Announced

The Selection Committee for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity has announced on April 24 in Yerevan 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. The ultimate Aurora Prize laureate will rceive US$1,000,000 award to amplify humanitarian work. The five finalists 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).

About Finalists

Ms. Fartuun Adan and Ms. Ilwad Elman

Fartuun Adan is the Executive Director of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, (EPHRC) an NGO based in Mogadishu, Somalia. In 1996, Somali warlords assassinated her husband for his peace-making efforts. Since then, Ms. Adan has championed human rights, peace-building, development, and the rehabilitation of child soldiers across Somalia, often under insecure and dangerous conditions. In 2010, Ms. Adan initiated the Sister Somalia program to support gender-based violence victims who had survived rapes and/or escaped forced marriages. She established Somalia’s first sexual violence hotline and rape crisis center in Mogadishu in 2011. To date, the center has served over 400 Somali women and girls, offering counselling and medical services, business start-up kits and funds, entrepreneurial skills training, and relocation to a safe place. Ms. Adan’s 27-year-old daughter, Ilwad Elman is her mother's partner in the work of EPHRC. Ms. Adan has received an International Women of Courage Award from the United States Department of State in addition to an award from the government of Germany for her work with the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre. In 2015, Ms. Adan and Ms. Elman received the Gleitsman International Activist Award from Harvard University.

Ms. Jamila Afghani

Jamila Afghani is the founder of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization. She works with families to support the acceptance of girls’ schooling in rural areas and engages with thousands of imams to deliver sermons on the importance of educating women and women’s rights, defending their rights under both Islamic and international law. Ms. Afghani has worked in the field of education since her graduation, serving Afghan youths in the refugee camps in Peshawar. Her social and economic projects for the empowerment of women, youths and children operate in 18 provinces of Afghanistan. She has received the “Religious Peacemaker Award” from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and many national and international awards.

Dr. Tom Catena

Since 2007, Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, NY, has been the only doctor permanently based in Sudan’s war-ravaged Nuba Mountains, which has a population of more than half a million people. Dr. Catena typically treats up to 400 patients in a day and is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Patients have been known to walk for seven days to receive treatment from him and typically visit the hospital with injuries from bombing attacks and ailments varying from bone fractures to malnourishment and malaria. Limited by his surroundings, Dr. Catena sometimes uses decades-old treatments and often doesn’t have electricity or running water at his disposal. He estimates that he performs more than a thousand operations a year. Dr. Catena was an Aurora Prize Finalist in 2016, and is globally regarded as a preeminent humanitarian medical professional.

Mr. Muhammad Darwish

Muhammad Darwish is a 26-year-old dentist from the besieged town of Madaya, Syria. While many doctors in Syria have fled violence and systematic attacks on hospitals and medical personnel, Darwish chose to return to Madaya. He is one of the three remaining doctors there, serving a population of more than 40,000 people. Darwish was targeted and threatened by Syrian government forces on multiple occasions because of his humanitarian work. By meticulously documenting the conditions of his patients, many of whom are children, Darwish has brought international attention to the conditions in Madaya.

Dr. Denis Mukwege

Dr. Denis Mukwege founded the Panzi Hospital in 1999 in response to the devastating war that surrounded his community in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have helped to care for more than 50,000 survivors of sexual violence. In addition to treating survivors’ physical wounds, the hospital provides legal, and psycho-social services for its patients. Dr. Mukwege has been fearless in his efforts to increase protections for women and to advocate that those responsible for sexual violence be brought to justice, including the Congolese government and militia groups laying siege to the eastern DRC. Dr. Mukwege has received numerous honors and awards including the 2014 Sakharov Prize. He has been named one of the Top 50 World's Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine (2016), nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and has received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University.