Delivered by Dr. Denis Mukwege, May 9, 2024

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with profound humility and responsibility that I accept the Aurora Award for Awakening Humanity. This honor not only recognizes our shared struggles but also amplifies the voices of those who have suffered in silence, and whose cries for justice often go unheard.

In the heart of my beloved Congo, the resilience and dignity of survivors of sexual violence inspire my every action. Their courage compels us to confront a man-made tragedy and to ignite a beacon of hope and healing in response.

This award is not mine alone. It belongs to every nurse, doctor, and counselor who toils tirelessly at Panzi Hospital and beyond. It is for every advocate for peace and human rights who believes in a future where justice prevails and healing is accessible to all.

With this recognition, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative not only shines a light on the ongoing struggles in the Democratic Republic of Congo but also sparks a global call for action. It reminds us that being human is not about merely surviving, but that we all have the opportunity to thrive when we stand together against injustice. I am grateful for your commitment to supporting human rights defenders, and for the platform you have provided us, to spread crucial awareness about our work.

I also wish to extend my gratitude and admiration to my fellow honorees, Nasrin Sotoudeh and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. Your perseverance in the face of adversity, at great personal risk, and your dedication to freedom and justice inspires us all. I wish you both continued strength and hope that you know that the humanitarian community  has not forgotten you, nor the important causes to which you have dedicated your life.

In closing, I would like to emphasize the crisis my Congolese brothers and sisters are still facing today, in the context of a war of aggression. The eastern region of our country is occupied by militia groups that are supported by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. These armed groups are raping women and children at horrific rates, massacring our people with impunity, and displacing millions, primarily so they can illegally export our minerals for their economic benefit. And yet, the world remains silent, and continues partnering with, providing aid to, and doing business with these neighboring states and dictatorships. When will world leaders finally put humanity over profit, and recognize the sovereignty of the Congo, just as it recognizes the sovereignty of Ukraine?

We need your help – the help of the international community, to end this Congolese tragedy. Let us take this moment not just as a celebration, but as a renewal of our commitment to fight for a world where humanity shines its brightest. Together, let us continue to awaken hope and nurture the flame of compassion and dignity for survivors of sexual violence, for women, and for all humankind.

Thank you.