The Aurora Prize for Humanity in Armenia presented by George Clooney, who co-chairs the winners of the selection committee aims to honor those who stood up for Armenians during the 1915 genocide.
The Prize will be granted annually to an individual whose actions have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes. The ultimate Aurora Prize Laureate will be given a $1 million award.
Among the four Aurora Prize finalists is a Catholic priest in Bossemptele in the Central African Republic, Fr Bernard Kinvi, of the Order of St Camillus.
Fr Bernard Kinvi, putting himself at high risk saved 1,500 Muslims from slaughter in the Central African Republic by providing refuge for those fleeing the anti-balaka militia at his mission hospital in Bossemptele for several months and health services to those on both sides of the conflict, saving hundreds of people from persecution and death. He helped them to escape on lorries across the border into Cameroon.
According to The Guardian, Fr Kinvi, recounted his experience during the war and said:
“When I became a priest, I undertook to serve the sick even if it meant putting my life in danger,” he says. “I said that but I didn’t really know what it meant.
“But when the war came, I understood what it means to risk your life. Being a priest is about more than giving blessings; it’s about standing with those who have lost everything,” he added.
Three of the four finalists are Catholics.
American physician, Dr. Tom Catena is the only doctor at Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. Dr. Catena was responsible for serving over 600,000 people in the region. Despite several bombings by the Sudanese government, Dr. Catena resides on the hospital grounds so that he may be on call at all times. He said his work is inspired by St Francis of Assisi.
Marguerite Barankitse saved thousands of lives and cared for orphans and refugees during the years of civil war in Burundi. When war broke out, Barankitse, a Tutsi, tried to hide 72 of her closest Hutu neighbors to keep them safe from persecution. They were discovered and executed, whilst Barankitse was forced to watch.
Syeda Ghulam Fatima worked tirelessly to eradicate bonded labor in Pakistan, one of the last remaining forms of modern slavery. Fatima is the general secretary of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan (BLLF), which has liberated thousands of Pakistani workers, including approximately 21,000 children, who were forced to work for brick kiln owners in order to repay debts.
In a statement, Mr. Clooney said his group shared a common goal with the Armenian sponsors, “to focus global attention on the impact of genocide as well as putting resources toward ending mass atrocities around the world.”
Vartan Gregorian, an Aurora Prize committee member, said: “We created the Aurora Prize not just to honour, but to support the unsung heroes who reclaim humanity and stand up to such oppression and injustice.
“One hundred years ago, strangers stood up against persecution on behalf of our ancestors, and today we thank them by recognizing those who act in the same spirit in the face of modern atrocities,” he added.