On April 24, 2020, on the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative hosted an online discussion to honor those who perished a century ago and celebrate modern heroes, including those fighting the global outbreak of COVID-19. In accordance with the symbolic traditions upheld by the Initiative for many years, Aurora revealed the names of 2020 Aurora Humanitarians, chosen by the Aurora Prize Selection Committee for their courage, commitment and impact.
“We’re part of the globe; we’re part of humanity. We’re setting an example that morally righteous nations can remind the humanity occasionally, during terrible times, that we are not alone. We are each other’s keepers. We represent the nation that stands for solidarity and compassion,” noted Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and Aurora Prize Selection Committee member.
The online discussion “Aurora. Standing in Solidarity,” moderated by Nicola Stanisch, Aurora’s Executive Director, brought together Noubar Afeyan, Vartan Gregorian and Ruben Vardanyan, Co-Founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative; Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, and Marguerite Barankitse, inaugural Aurora Prize Laureate.
Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, took the virtual stage to announce the 2020 Aurora Humanitarians: Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman, Angélique Namaika, Sophie Beau and Klaus Vogel, Sakena Yacoobi. “Aurora is about building a broader humanitarian movement and maintaining a cycle of giving and is focused on gratitude in action. By bringing these traditions online today, we are adapting to our current situation, bringing people together, remembering the kindness of humanity and celebrating the work of these heroes,” said Lord Darzi.
On behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, an Aurora Prize Laureate is honored each year with a US $1,000,000 award and a unique opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by supporting the organizations that have inspired their humanitarian action. The 2020 Aurora Humanitarians have nominated the following organizations:
- Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman – Love Does, Panzi Foundation and Prajwala;
- Angélique Namaika – Invisible Children and Caritas Internationalis;
- Sophie Beau and Klaus Vogel – SOS MEDITERRANEE;
- Sakena Yacoobi – Afghan Institute of Learning, Creating Hope International and Women’s Refugee Commission Inc.
Marguerite Barankitse, the inaugural Aurora Prize Laureate, brought up all the ways solidarity can strengthen a community and benefit humanity on a global level։ “I think that we should stand up together. There are so many people and we can share; we can break this indifference and create compassion. Aurora Prize creates a brotherhood of people who have lost so much. If those survivors can say: “OK, I can give back to others,” then we can also give back to others․”
Noubar Afeyan, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, drew parallels between the inspiration behind the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and the current crisis: “The human spirit that motivates people to save others is the one that very few of us have experienced but that many Armenians are the beneficiaries of. Today, that same spirit is being thrust upon all the world. There are modern day saviors in every community and there are survivors who can’t understand why this is happening with the virus. And they feel now what Armenians felt a 105 years ago. I can’t but point out that while the perpetrator is different, the effect is much the same.”
Ruben Vardanyan, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, highlighted the significance of the date and called for new solutions to come out of the crisis. “What we’re commemorating today is crucial not only for the Armenians but also for the world. We are facing a new challenge now, and it’s all about the key issues – our human values. Looking forward and remembering your past, I think, are the critical messages for today. The pandemic crisis creates a new reality that we have to accept. But while we’re isolated locally, we at the same time remain connected globally. We’re all part of the global picture,” he said.
During the online discussion, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative also officially announced the opening of the nomination period for the 2021 Aurora Prize and called for putting forward inspiring humanitarians, including those fighting the global outbreak of COVID-19.