Three Individuals Honored For Their Courageous Contributions to Humanity

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Three Individuals Honored For Their Courageous Contributions to Humanity

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Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is a prestigious, annual international humanitarian award, which recognizes those courageous individuals or organizations that have an 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.

The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity Selection Committee announced three humanitarians as potential recipients of the 2018 Prize. This year, the organization is recognizing three humanitarians for their selfless commitment to fighting sexual violence in India, advocating on behalf of Rohingya people in Myanmar and protecting Central American immigrants in Mexico.

The honorees will be honored at the third annual Aurora Prize Ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia on June 9, 2018. Of the three nominated, one will be chosen as the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate at a ceremony on June 10, 2018.

The Sunday Paper posed two questions each to these extraordinary individuals.

Mrs. Sunitha Krishnan, co-founder of Prajwala, India: A gang rape survivor turned women’s rights advocate who used her trauma as motivation to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution back into society, creating an organization that has positively impacted the lives of more than 17,800 women and children. She has nominated organizations that fight gender imbalance and sexual violence and trafficking throughout India.

  1. How did your own violent sexual assault motivate you to become a strong human rights advocate?

The unfairness of making me feel as if I was responsible for the crime committed on me filled me with anger, which became the triggering point for my journey as human rights advocate. Over the years, the anger has only grown as I see more and more victims being victimized by society for a crime they never committed. Anger is my prime motivation to become a strong human rights advocate.

  1. What does this nomination mean to you and your work?

This nomination is a reaffirmation that I am on the right track and there is a world out there which believes in my conviction. It fills me with renewed strength which impacts my team to continue our mission with new vigor in spite of multiple challenges we face on the ground.

 

Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, lawyer and Rohingya leader, Myanmar: A Rohingya Muslim who, despite being imprisoned for a collective 12 years for peaceful protests against systematic discrimination and violence, uses his legal expertise to fight for equality, improvements in education and human rights for his community. He has nominated international organizations that provide medical aid and assistance to refugees in Myanmar.

  1. Tell us about the strict regulations being inflicted upon the Rohingya community, including yourself, and what you are doing to help. 

After the 1990 election, former military regime prevented the Muslims Rohingyas from traveling to central Myanmar/Burma. Immigration stopped issuing National Registration Cards for the Muslims Rohingyas. Later on, Muslims Rohingyas were prevented from traveling even within Rakhine State and the authorities did not issue birth certificates for newborn children.

They are trying to issue National Scrutiny Cards that describes the term Bengali. I approached the authorities to reduce travel restrictions in order to allow the Muslims for traveling with National Registration Cards, but it is very difficult to change the strict policies. The government departments blame each other for travel restriction. It will take time for major changes.

  1. What does this nomination mean to you and your work?

It is international recognition for me and my family members who suffered for many years. It is also recognition of my works on human rights and humanitarian grounds. And it is recognition of our peoples’ sufferings.

 

Fr. Hector Tomas Gonzalez Castillo, founder of La 72, Mexico: A Franciscan friar who has provided shelter, food, water, counseling and legal assistance to more than 50,000 Central American immigrants along their often-harrowing journeys through Mexico, providing aid to all, including those who suffer traumatic attacks, attempted kidnappings and expulsions from their own countries. He has nominated organizations working to promote human rights for those living with HIV/AIDS and to provide cultural education to Mayans in Mexico.

  1. Tell us about the hardships that migrant workers face each day in fleeing their homes and what you are doing to counter this.

I believe that every person who has to leave their country due to an unjust economic system, an exploitive system, general violence in their country, post-electoral conflict, unfortunate natural misfortune, gender or intrafamilial violence, for whatever reason, is already a victim. We are talking about forced migration.

Pain and suffering increase when the path they take is lethal. Migrants in transit through Mexico find a minefield from the southern border to the northern border, from the Pacific to the Atlantic: abuse of authority, extortion, robbery, assault, sexual assault, persecution, kidnapping, forced disappearance, and death. They also find a society that does not acknowledge their suffering, but rather discriminates against them and criminalizes them.

At La 72, we as a team strive to act as a permanent dam for the endless river of blood. With our actions and our work, we come together to make the migrant’s journey less painful.

  1. What does this nomination mean to you and your work?

Our work is boosted by the Aurora Prize nomination and the knowledge that in other parts of the world people and organizations trust our efforts and are aware of us. It also represents our renewed commitment to working on what we are doing with passion and reaffirms that not everything is lost in this world.

 

For more information about The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, go to auroraprize.com.

This essay was featured in the June 3rd edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.

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