101 Years after Genocide, Stories of Courage Light a Path Forward

How do we tackle today's diverse human rights abuses?

That answer is, of course, complex. The violence splashed across today's papers and the devastating reality of everyday life for millions is not easily explained or solved. It's an output of systemic misunderstandings, rooted in cultural rifts that extend back generations and generations. The reasons are myriad, the results atrocious and the answers, by most accounts, seemingly unattainable.

But despite untold human loss and humanitarian violations, we have hope. We maintain hope, because we know that everywhere people commit atrocities, there are also people working to stem the tide of human suffering and save lives.

We can each personally attest to this fact. One hundred and one years ago, our Armenian ancestors suffered the first modern genocide. Millions were massacred, families were torn apart and an entire cultural identity was nearly lost. But from this carnage emerged stories of astonishing human resilience and bravery.

It is our job to tell these stories.

We must remember the past injustices and recognize current suffering, but we believe even greater change will arise from memorializing and celebrating awe-inspiring acts of human courage.

Last year, we launched 100 LIVES to give the day we commemorate as the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide greater meaning. We launched 100 LIVES to remember those who perished, but more importantly, to honor and support those who fought back.

100 LIVES tells the stories of astonishing and perilous acts of human courage that made our own lives possible. It pays tribute to individuals like Bedros and Nerses Afeyan, who escaped death on several separate occasions and still continued to risk their own lives for the Armenian nation by helping clerics, educators, writers and doctors escape persecution. And to the Norwegian missionary, Bodil Bioern, who sheltered hundreds of Armenian children--even endangering herself to save them when her orphanage was set on fire.

Stories like these transcend rhetoric and remind us of the responsibility we all have to the human race. Fortunately, there are many more similar stories. So, as we recognize those who fought to preserve our cultural identity, we also recognize the humanitarians of the world's current struggles.

This weekend, we awarded the first-ever Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, a global humanitarian award to be given annually to people who put themselves at risk for others. We narrowed down a field of truly inspiring individuals to four finalists--four people who embody the spirit of our Armenian ancestors and stand testament to human resilience.

All four finalists--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--were recognized for their selfless acts of determination and compassion.

In front of the more than 400 distinguished guests who attended Sunday's ceremony, Marguerite was ultimately named the Aurora Prize Laureate--and deservedly so for her remarkable work saving 30,000 children and opening a hospital which has treated more than 80,000 patients to date. Yet we applaud all of the finalists equally for their courage to fight injustice and violence perpetrated against the most vulnerable in their societies.

By honoring these individuals, we envision the Aurora Prize as a pathway for future altruism--a means of supporting ongoing humanitarianism by funding and nurturing self-sacrifice. We hope each year the Prize will make a real difference to the causes that motivate people to risk their health, liberty or livelihood, and will inspire a generation to fight for others to survive and thrive.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, a new global humanitarian award which was presented during a weekend of events in Armenia April 22-24. The series aims to recognize the exceptional impact the Prize finalists' actions have had on advancing humanitarian causes, and raise awareness of the weekend's humanitarian discussions, the Aurora Dialogues. For more information, visit www.auroraprize.com.