Finalists of "Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity" selected

Named after Aurora Mardiganian, who witnessed the killing of her relatives in 1915 Armenian Genocide and survived the massacre miraculously, Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity will be given for the first time.

The finalists of the award, which will be given to the people who struggle for humanity under extremely hard conditions, announced last week. The finalists are selected out of 200 nominees that were determined on last April, when the award was announced.

One of the finalists is Marguerite Barankitse who founded an orphanage for children who were orphaned as a result of the uprising started in Brundi and devastated Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Another finalist is Syeda Ghulam Fatima. She is one of the volunteers of Boded Labour Liberation Font which is active in Lahor city in Pakistan and helps the sex workers there. Dr. Tom Catena is another finalist. He was the only physician in the region during the war in Sudan and provided healthcare for over 500.000 people. Another finalist is Priest Bernard Kinci from Togo. He saved the lives of 1000 Muslims, mostly children and women, during the civilian clashes that became chronic in Central African Republic.

The award is meant to honor those whose exceptional work to preserve human life in disasters created by humans -like war and ethnic strife- puts them in great peril. The finalists, whose selection will be announced Tuesday, will attend a ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia, on April 24, where the winner will be announced.

“They’re not celebrities; they’re surprised that some people in the outside world even noticed them,” said Vartan Gregorian, the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a philanthropic foundation. Mr. Gregorian, an American scholar of Armenian descent, leads the selection committee for the award, known as the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.

“They’re not in the self-aggrandizing business,” Mr. Gregorian said in an interview alongside two other committee members, Gareth Evans, a former foreign minister of Australia, and Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist and Nobel laureate.

The prize, created by Mr. Gregorian and two other prominent philanthropists of Armenian descent, Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan, has a twist that distinguishes it from other prizes: The winner receives $100,000 and designates an organization that inspired his or her work to be the beneficiary of $1 million.


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Vartan Estukyan