Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity

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The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity
Armenian symbol for eternity.
Awarded for Courage, commitment to a humanitarian cause and impact on the world
Country Armenia
Presented by Aurora Humanitarian Initiative
First awarded
  • 2016 (2016)
No. of laureates 2 Laureates and 6 Organizations as of 2017

Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is an annual international humanitarian award, which is initiated to recognize and express gratitude to those courageous individuals or organizations that impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes. It is awarded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors.[1]
The Aurora Prize ceremonies take place annually in Yerevan, Armenia starting from 24 April 2016. The laureate of the prize receives $100,000 grant as well as the opportunity to nominate organizations that inspired his or her work for a US $1,000,000 award.[2]


The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is one of the projects of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative,[3] it was officially announced at 100 LIVES launch event in New York on March 10, 2015. The Aurora Prize is inspired by many stories of the rescue of Armenians during the Armenian Genocide.
The prize is named after Arshaluys Mardikyan, who after surviving the Armenian Genocide, escaping from slavery and roaming around the world appeared in the U.S. and took the name Aurora Mardiganian. She wrote a book called “Ravished Armenia”, which presents those dreadful events, this book had then become a script for the movie in which Aurora starred. For many years this movie was a crowd-puller in the U.S., and it played an enormous role in raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide.[4]

Ravished Armenia Martikanyan

100 LIVES[edit]

100 LIVES is a global initiative rooted in the events of the Armenian Genocide and co-founded by famous businessmen and philanthropists Ruben Vardanyan and Noubar Afeyan and President of Carnegie Corporation of New York Vartan Gregorian.[5] The project discovers and publishes stories about survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their saviors, these stories are collected through academic research, personal accounts, and story submissions by the public to the 100 LIVES website.[6]


The Aurora Prize is the vision of Vartan Gregorian, Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan, the prize was conceived out of a desire "to honor those who risk their own safety because of a heightened sense of humanity and responsibility and support life-saving causes in a tangible way".[7]

Nomination and Selection Process[edit]


Each summer humanitarian organizations and members of the public are invited to nominate individuals they believe have overcome great external challenges to make an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.[8]
Any individual or group that commits an extraordinary act of humanity can be nominated to receive the Aurora Prize. Self-nominations are not permitted.[9]


All nominations are carefully vetted and reviewed through a rigorous process, monitored by a third-party independent observer, the selection of the finalists and the Aurora Prize Laureate is made by the independent Aurora Prize Selection Committee,[10] which evaluates the nominees based on the following criteria:

  • Courage in overcoming significant risks, going beyond the call of duty for the sake of helping others survive;
  • Commitment to moral values such as integrity, freedom, justice, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility and compassion, and direct involvement in helping others survive;
  • Impact on their community, country or on the world at large; a long-term effect in saving lives; inspiration to others to save lives; saving lives of a large number of individuals.[11][12]

2016 Aurora Prize[edit]

Selection Committee[edit]

Inaugural Selection Committee of the prize included the late Nobel Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, as well as Oscar Arias, Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, human rights activist Hina Jilani, former Australian Foreign Minister and President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group Gareth Evans, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York Vartan Gregorian, and Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian George Clooney.[13]


  • Dr. Tom Catena is the only doctor permanently based near Sudan’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, he was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015.[14]
  • Syeda Ghulam Fatima has worked tirelessly to eradicate bonded labor in Pakistan, one of the last remaining forms of modern slavery. Fatima 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. 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 Togo to head a Catholic mission with the Central African Republic; in 2012 civil war broke out. Amid 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.[15]


The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity Inaugural Ceremony was held on April 24, 2016 in Yerevan at the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex.[16]


The Ceremony was hosted by an Armenian opera diva Hasmik Papian and an American journalist and novelist David Ignatius.


The Ceremony was opened by an animation film directed by Eric Nazarian featuring Serj Tankian’s “Aurora’s Dream” as the soundtrack.[17]
Each of the finalists has been introduced with a documentary mini-film directed by Andrey Loshak.[18]


The live music during the Ceremony was performed by State Youth Orchestra of Armenia conducted by Sergey Smbatyan. The Fanfares of the Ceremony was composed by Stepan Shakaryan, the Statuette, created by Manvel Matevosyan was presented with an excerpt from “Two Suns” ballet by “Ballet2021 Foundation” dance troupe (choreographer Roudolf Kharatyan), accompanied by Avet Terteryan’s and Arno Babajanyan’s music. The State Youth Orchestra of Armenia performed an excerpt from Aram Khachaturyan’s Symphony No. 2 (Bell Symphony). The co-hostess, soprano Hasmik Papian performed Barsegh Kanachyan’s “Lullaby”, the Ceremony was concluded with the song “Pour toi, Arménie’’ (For you, Armenia) performed by Gevorg Hakobyan and the State Youth Orchestra of Armenia.[19]


The inaugural Aurora Prize was awarded to Marguerite Barankitse from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi for the extraordinary impact she has had in saving thousands of lives and caring for orphans and refugees during the country’s years of civil war.
Barankitse has dedicated her life to providing safe haven and education to children escaping violence and abuse. When war first broke out in Burundi, Barankitse, a Tutsi, tried to hide 72 of her closest Hutu neighbors to keep them safe from persecution, they were discovered and executed, while she was forced to watch.
Following this horrifying experience, which truly tested her faith in humanity, Barankitse began her work saving and caring for children and refugees. Over the next 20 years Barankitse rescued and educated roughly 30000 children, and in 2008 she opened a hospital which has treated more than 80000 patients to date.[20][21][22][23]

Love transcends all obstacles. Even if we have nothing we can give laughter and tenderness.
Marguerite Barankitse, A Calling to Love[24]


Marguerite Barankitse, as 2016 Aurora Prize Laureate, selected the following organizations that inspired her work to receive a $1 million dollar award: Fondation Jean-Francois Peterbroeck, Foundation du Grand-Duc et de la Grande-Duchesse, Bridderlech Deelen.[25]


Award Money[edit]

As Laureate, Marguerite Barankitse was awarded the $100000 grant and donated the accompanying $1000000 award to the organizations to advance aid and rehabilitation for child refugees and orphans, and fight child poverty.[26]


The Statuette of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was sculptured by Manvel Matevosyan and called Towards Eternity.[27]

2017 Aurora Prize[edit]

Selection Committee[edit]

The members of Selection Committee of 2017 Aurora Prize are George Clooney (Co-Chair), Vartan Gregorian, Oscar Arias, Shirin Ebadi, Gareth Evans, Leymah Gbowee, Hina Jilani, Mary Robinson and Lord Ara Darzi .[28][29][30]


The nominations for 2017 Aurora Prize were opened on June 1 and closed on September 9, 2016. 558 submissions from 66 countries for 254 unique candidates were received.[31] 2017 finalists were:

  • 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 from Amsterdam, New York, 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 who returned to his home-town 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, gynaecological surgeon and founder of the Panzi Hospital, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an obstetrician turned gynaecological 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.[32][33][34]


The 2017 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded to Dr. Tom Catena. For the last nine years, Dr. Catena – known by locals as “Dr. Tom” – has been on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Mother of Mercy Catholic Hospital to care for the more than 750,000 citizens amidst ongoing civil war between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. Patients have been known to walk for up to seven days to receive treatment for injuries from bombing attacks and ailments varying from bone fractures to malnourishment and malaria, it is estimated that Dr. Catena treats 500 patients per day and performs more than one thousand operations each year.[32]

We all have an obligation to look after our brothers and sisters. It is possible that every single person can make a contribution, and to recognize that shared humanity can lead to a brighter future.
Dr. Tom Catena, 2017 Aurora Prize Ceremony.[35]

Dr. Catena received a $100,000 grant and the opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by donating the accompanying $1,000,000 award to organizations of his choice. Dr. Catena will donate the award to three organizations: African Mission Healthcare Foundation (AMHF), USA; Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), USA; Aktion Canchanabury, Germany.

Aurora Dialogues[edit]

Aurora Dialogues is a platform for discussions of the most pressing humanitarian challenges of the day, the 2016 Aurora Dialogues were held on April 23 in Matenadaran, Yerevan. Participants, including Selection Committee members Hina Jilani, Shirin Ebadi and Gareth Evans, offered their views on the global refugee crisis, the role of women in the humanitarian community, and the role of the media in bringing humanitarian crises to the world’s attention.[36][37][38]

Aurora Humanitarian Index[edit]

Introduced during the Aurora Dialogues 2016, this specially commissioned study measured public perception of top humanitarian issues, based on 4600 people in six countries, the study’s findings revealed the global disconnect between perception and reality vis-à-vis the refugee crisis, by exploring the respondents’ opinions on the need and responsibility for international intervention.[39][40][41]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "George Clooney, The Aurora Prize And Hope In Armenia". Forbes. 29 April 2016. 
  2. ^ "Aurora Prize ceremony kicks off in Yerevan". 24 April 2016. 
  3. ^ "Beneficiaries of $1 Million Aurora Prize Announced". The Armenian Weekly. 25 August 2016. 
  4. ^ "100 years later in New York: #BeArmenian, #BeAlive". Mediamax. 11 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "100 LIVES initiative to kick off in New York today". Mediamax. 10 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "'100 LIVES' Initiative Launched in New York". The Armenian Weekly. 11 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "100 LIVES Opens Nomination Period for New $1 Million Global Humanitarian Award". Asbarez. 8 July 2015. 
  8. ^ "Nominations open for Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity". 9 July 2015. 
  9. ^ Aurora Prize FAQ
  10. ^ "Nominations For 2017 Aurora Prize For Awakening Humanity Are Now Closed". 10 September 2016. 
  11. ^ "Humanitarian Leaders to Gather in Armenia for Aurora Prize Ceremony". 18 April 2016. 
  12. ^ Aurora Prize FAQ
  13. ^ "Aurora Prize Selection Committee Meets to Deliberate on Finalists". Asbarez. 14 March 2016. 
  14. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People". TIME. 
  15. ^ "A Look at the Four Finalists of the 2016 Aurora Prize". The Huffington Post. 5 May 2016. 
  16. ^ "Aurora Prize Ceremony Kicks Off". Armenpress. 24 April 2016. 
  17. ^ "Inaugural Aurora Prize Held In Yerevan". Asbarez. 25 April 2016. 
  18. ^ "Good can triumph – Andrey Loshak". A1+. 15 July 2016. 
  19. ^ "Inaugural Aurora Prize Held In Yerevan". Asbarez. 25 April 2016. 
  20. ^ Melanie Gouby (8 August 2016). "After rescuing 20,000 Burundian orphans, Marguerite Barankitse forges on in exile". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ "Marguerite Barankitse: Armenia's example teaches to never give up". Mediamax. 24 April 2016. 
  22. ^ "A Calling To Love". 10 March 2016. 
  23. ^ "'Why does no one mention Burundi?' asks winner of new humanitarian award". The Guardian. 10 March 2016. 
  24. ^ "A Calling to Love". 
  25. ^ "Beneficiaries of $ 1 mln award from Aurora Prize confirmed". Mediamax. 19 August 2016. 
  26. ^ Sophie Morlin-Yron (16 May 2016). "$1m prize for heroic Burundi woman who saved 30,000 children from war". CNN. 
  27. ^ "Aurora Prize winner received statuette created by sculptor Manvel Matevosyan". A1+. 25 April 2016. 
  28. ^ "Aurora Prize: The Selection Committee". 
  29. ^ "Nominations for the 2017 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity Now Closed". Hetq. 9 September 2016. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ "254 candidates nominated for 2017 Aurora Prize". Mediamax. 10 September 2016. 
  32. ^ a b Aurora Prize. 2017 finalists.
  33. ^ AUA Newsroom. June 1, 2017. AUA Co-hosts Conversation with the 2017 Aurora Prize Finalists.
  34. ^ UK Fundraising. 2017 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity awarded to Dr Tom Catena. 31 May 2017.
  35. ^ "Dr. Tom Catena on being named the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate". 
  36. ^ "Aurora Dialogues։ Armenia to present a new say to the world". 22 April 2016. 
  37. ^ "First-Ever Aurora Dialogues To Provide Platform For Humanitarian Discussion". Asbarez. 19 April 2016. 
  38. ^ "Humanitarian issues in the center of attention of the world: Aurora dialogues". A1+. 23 April 2016. 
  39. ^ "Syria refugee crisis underestimated by UK public". Daily Mail. 22 April 2016. 
  40. ^ "Humanitarian Index reveals preconceptions about refugees". Impact. 11 May 2016. 
  41. ^ "First Annual Humanitarian Index Released". Aurora Prize. 22 April 2016.