NEWS

Aurora Prize Honouring World's Modern-Day Saviours To Be Presented By George Clooney

The finalists have spent a lifetime working in the shadows.

22/04/2016 09:15 | Updated 22 April 2016

George Clooney is set to honour some of the world’s modern-day saviours at a ceremony in Armenia on Sunday.

The $1,000,000 (£700,000) Aurora Prize will be granted to one of four finalists for "inspiring acts of humanity" carried out in conflict-ridden regions of the world.

Launched by the 100 Lives initiative, which aims to create awareness of the Armenian Genocide, the winner of the prize then hands the money to an organisation of their choice.

The finalists, who have spent a lifetime working in the shadows with little recognition, are selected by a committee boasting a roster of high profile names such as George Clooney and the Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

The Aurora Prize was co-founded by Russian-Armenian entrepreneur Ruben Vardanyan, Iranian born academic Vartan Gregorian and Noubar Afeyan, a venture capitalist of Armenian heritage.

We want our actions to help inspire others to stop, to think about those who have helped them during a moment of crisis, and to express gratitude by doing something in return. The 100 LIVES initiative

The four Aurora Prize finalists are:

Syeda Ghulam Fatima, freedom fighter: "I want to free all children."

Working out of a store front in a mall in Lahore, Syeda Ghulam Fatima is battling a powerful community of more than 20,000 brick kiln owners who target illiterate labourers in rural villages with the promise of a small loan to pay off debt in exchange for a short period of labour. 

However, with time the burden of debt grows and it is passed onto their children, who are also forced into a lifetime of bonded labour.

Jheeni, a 12-year-old who works alongside his father told Al Jazeera: "I accompany my family to the workplace at six o'clock in the morning and we work all day, ending late when it is dark...

"During summer, it becomes hard to sustain the heat and work pressure. Often my hands are burnt while carrying baked bricks."

Action Aid estimates 3.8 million children aged five to 14 are forced into child labour within the brick kiln industry.

In 1990, Fatima set up the Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan.

Its mission is to facilitate a "total eradication of the bonded labour, injustice, illiteracy inequality and poverty in south Asia".

"I work for the most neglected community," she tells the Aurora Prize organisers.

"Every third girl is humiliated by her owner, a victim of rape in the brick kiln, in slavery...

"I want to free them, all children."

Marguerite Barankitse, teacher: “A calling to love...”

"They beheaded her best friend and threw her head on Maggy’s [Marguerite's] lap," writes Katherine Marshall of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University. 

Marguerite, or Maggy, as those who know her affectionately call her, has seen everything from her children being massacred in front of her to young people being beaten up by the police.

Born in Ruyigi, in eastern Burundi, she studied to be a teacher and went on to do three years of seminary studies in France.

In 1993, tensions between the nation’s minority Tutsis and majority Hutus escalated after the country's first Hutu president Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated by Tutsi soldiers sparking mass killings of some 25,000 Tutsis.

During this time, Maggy risked her life to shelter a group of Hutus, despite being a Tutsi.

When a Tutsi mob later ambushed them, she was forced to watch as they "dismembered and burned" two people in her protection.

In 2002, the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi declared the massacre that took place following Ndadaye's assisnation as genocide

To give the children of the Burundi war a home, she set up Maison Shalom (House of Peace).

Surrounded by a world of hate, she believes she has a calling “to give happiness” and it is this purpose that has shortlisted her as a finalist for the Aurora Prize.

Today the organisations states it has “come to the aid of more than 20,000 orphans and needy children”.

Tom Catena, doctor: “If you just have hope, some ray of hope…”

Dr Tom Catena lives in a hospital in the Nuba Mountains, in the south of Sudan.

He is the only doctor at a 435-bed hospital serving a region with a population of around 500,000 people.

Speaking to the Aurora Prize organisers, he describes the plight of a 60-year-old woman who was hit with a shell, while hiding in a cave.

She was taken to hospital with fractures in her foot and thigh.

However, while she was recovering, airstrikes hit the hospital and left her protecting a 11-year-old with what Catena calls, "iron resolve".

Unlike the doctors working in the west, Catena has to specialise in everything from delivering babies to treating cancers.

Father Bernard Kinvi, priest: "The modern world needs people who decisively align themselves with the weakest…"

Father Bernard Kinvi works in Bossemptele, Central African Republic (CAR), where he provides mobile medical services for families in rural villages without electricity or internet access.

"The modern world needs people who decisively align themselves with the weakest and the most deprived. The future of humanity depends on this,” he tells the Aurora prize organisers.  

Father Kinvi has suffered his own fair share of pain. His sister was killed before his own eyes and his older sister murdered by her finance.

At the height of the conflict in CAR however, he took in around 1,500 Muslims, at risk of persecution from Christians, and arranged safe passage for them to Cameroon.

“I thirst for peace in CAR,” he told the Guardian.  “I want to see people able to move around safely like in any other country.

"I want to see my Muslim brothers, who have lost everything, return to their homes. It’s their country and they need to be back home.” 

The 100 LIVES initiative announces Aurora Prize
Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS