NEW YORK — The Aurora Prize Selection Committee announced the four Aurora Prize finalists as Marguerite Barankitse, from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi; Dr. Tom Catena, from Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan; Syeda Ghulam Fatima, the General Secretary of the Bonded Labor Liberation Front in Pakistan; and Father Bernard Kinvi, a Catholic priest in Bossemptele in the Central African Republic.
The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is a new global award that will be given annually to individuals who put themselves at risk to enable others to survive. Recipients will be recognized for the exceptional impact their actions have made on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes, having overcome significant challenges along the way. One of the four finalists, the ultimate Aurora Prize Laureate, will receive a grant of US$100,000 and the chance to continue the cycle of giving by nominating organizations that inspired his or her work for a US$1 million award.
The Aurora Prize was created by the co-founders of 100 LIVES, a pioneering global initiative seeking to express gratitude to those who put themselves at risk to save Armenians from the Genocide one hundred years ago. On behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, the annual Aurora Prize aims to raise public consciousness about atrocities occurring around the world and reward those working to address those issues in a real and substantial manner.
“All four finalists are being recognized because they have found the courage to fight against injustice and violence inflicted upon those most vulnerable in their societies,” said 100 LIVES Co-Founder and Aurora Prize Selection Committee Member Vartan Gregorian. “We created the Aurora Prize not just to honor, 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.”
Marguerite Barankitse, from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi, 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. Following this gruesome incident, she started her work saving and caring for children and refugees. She has saved roughly 30,000 children and in 2008, she opened a hospital which has treated more than 80,000 patients to date.
Dr. Tom Catena is the sole doctor at Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. An American physician, Dr. Catena is the only doctor permanently based near the country’s border with South Sudan, and is therefore responsible for serving over 500,000 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. His selfless acts have been brought to light by a number of media and aid organizations, and he was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015.
Syeda Ghulam Fatima has worked tirelessly to eradicate bonded labor, 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. The interest rates are too high for workers to pay off, trapping the workers in forced labor and poor—often brutal—conditions. Fatima has survived attempts on her life and repeated beatings during the course of her activism.
Father Bernard Kinvi became a priest at age 19, after losing his father and four sisters to prolonged violence and illness. Father Kinvi left his home country of Lome, Togo to Bossemptele, a small town just inside the border of the Central African Republic, to head a Catholic mission which consisted of a school, church and the Pope John Paul II Hospital. In 2012, civil war broke out in the Central African Republic between Muslim Seleka rebels and the anti-balaka (anti-machete) Christian militia. Amidst the violence, Father Kinvi’s mission provided refuge and health services to those on both sides of the conflict, saving hundreds of people from persecution and death.
From July to October 2015, nominations were received from around the world through a public portal on www.auroraprize.com. Candidates were nominated for their selfless work, from battling bonded labor to harboring refugees, to delivering frontline care in conflict zones.
One of the four finalists will be announced as the inaugural Aurora Prize Laureate during a ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia on April 24, 2016. Selection Committee Co-Chair George Clooney will present the award. The Aurora Prize finalists will be celebrated as part of a weekend of events bringing together leading voices in the humanitarian field, including the International Center for Journalists, International Rescue Committee and Not On Our Watch to discuss some of the most pressing humanitarian issues the world is facing today, and acknowledge those confronting them.