We must do more for victims of war and persecution, says film star, who reveals his own ancestors’ flight from famine-ravaged Ireland.
The Oscar-winning actor opened up over his own ancestors’ struggles in fleeing the famine in Ireland in the 19th century and called on people to believe they could make a difference.
“The simple truth is that all of us here tonight are the result of someone’s act of kindness. We all stand on the shoulders of good people who didn’t look away when we were in need,” Clooney told a humanitarian conference in Yerevan, Armenia.
“The Clooney family fled a famine in Ireland to come to the United States where their very survival required a room, a meal, a helping hand. We call them refugees, but they’re just people, like you and me.
“And if you stand right in front of them and take a look deep into their eyes, you might just see an Irish farmer fleeing a famine. If we are to survive as a people, we simply can’t look away. Not from the people of Syria or South Sudan or the Congo.”
About 4.8 million people have fled Syria since civil war broke out in 2011, according to UN figures.
The actor has previously produced documentaries on the Darfur conflict in Sudan and said on Saturday that he combated the “suffocation” of fame with human rights activism.
Clooney was in Armenia to present the Aurora prize, an award held to recognise those who put themselves at risk to save the lives of others.
He handed the inaugural award to Marguerite Barankitse, who saved the lives of 30,000 children during the Burundi civil war. She was personally given $100,000 (£70,000) and awarded a $1m (£700,000) grant to donate to a charity or organisation that has inspired her.
The actor said Barankitse served as a “reminder of the impact that one person can have even when encountering seemingly insurmountable persecution and injustice”.