Clooney and Wiesel Co-Chair Human Rights Award
NEW YORK (A.W.)—On March 10, the “100 LIVES” initiative, which aims to celebrate survivors of the Armenian Genocide and support efforts to keep the legacy of gratitude alive, was launched in New York.
The initiative is led by a group of Diasporan Armenians including President of Carnegie Corporation Vartan Gregorian and entrepreneurs Ruben Vardanyan and Noubar Afeyan.
The project aims to uncover and recount stories about survivors and their saviors, which will be collected through academic research, personal accounts, and story submissions by the public to the 100lives.com website.
“The humanity, generosity, strength, and sacrifice shown by those who saved so many Armenians compel us to tell these stories,” said Ruben Vardanyan, co-founder of 100 LIVES. “Now is the time to shine a light on those most extraordinary lives, to build on the lessons they teach us, and to express our gratitude for what they did.”
Academy Award winner and activist George Clooney joined Vardanyan on stage in a panel moderated by Gwen Ifill, managing editor of Washington Week and co-anchor and co-managing editor of PBS NewsHour. When asked why it was important for him to be involved in such a project, Clooney explained that it is these types of initiatives that help shed light on ongoing atrocities. “We don’t want to triage in the end, I think that’s silly and too late. Our thought was let’s explore any way we can to expose these things and make it more difficult to happen in the broad daylight, because we know it happens in the dark,” said Clooney.
“We really want people to get involved with 100 LIVES, to celebrate those that overcome adversity and give back to others, just as the Armenian community is doing in this Centenary year,” said Clooney.
“As a tangible expression of gratitude,” 100 LIVES will also invest in “Gratitude Projects” relating to Armenia, countries with a strong Armenian diasporan community, or countries with links to the people, families, institutions, or communities that saved and helped Armenians during the genocide.
The “100 LIVES Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity” was also announced as a means to empower modern-day saviors. The annual grant of $1 million will be awarded to a recipient who will, in turn, present it to the organization identified as the inspiration for his/her action.
The selection committee of the annual Aurora Prize is made up of human rights champions from around the world, including George Clooney; Nobel Peace Prize winners Elie Wiesel and Oscar Arias; Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Gareth Evans, former Australian Foreign Minister and President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group; globally respected human rights activist Hina Jilani; and Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian.
100 LIVES has announced that Clooney will award the inaugural prize at a ceremony to be held in Yerevan, Armenia, on April 24, 2016.
Clooney, who is one of the founders of “Not on Our Watch,” a 100 LIVES partner organization, will join Elie Wiesel, a human rights advocate and chairman of the American Holocaust Memorial, as co-chairman of the prize’s selection committee.
“I have personally witnessed the devastation that genocide wreaks, which sadly continues today,” said Wiesel. “But I also recognize the resilience of the human spirit.”
“We must remember and honor the remarkable efforts of those saviors who intervened a century ago to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again,” he added.
The Aurora Prize is named after Aurora Mardiganian who, as a child, survived the Armenian Genocide and went on to devote her life to providing humanitarian relief and raising awareness about the plight of the Armenians. Mardiganian is best known for starring in “Ravished Armenia,” also known as “Auction of Souls,” a 1919 American film based on the Armenian Genocide.
One of Mardiganian’s relatives, Ani Karabashian, addressed the crowd on behalf of the family and stressed the importance of the initiative.
100 LIVES will also digitize the written record of the Armenian Genocide to preserve the memory of the genocide.
“There are a small number of survivors of the Armenian Genocide left with us. It is crucial that we ensure that, as we approach the Centennial, we take this opportunity to leave a lasting imprint of what happened a century ago onto the world’s collective conscience,” said Vartan Gregorian.
“Resilience, strength, survival, and gratitude are characteristics exhibited by Armenians, though not by us exclusively. They are found in all people,” said 100 LIVES co-founder Noubar Afeyan, adding, “We developed the concept of #BeArmenian #BeAlive to encapsulate the strength of the human spirit, not just for Armenians but for everyone.”