School is in full swing and I’m LOVING my new school, RMCAD. One of the first difficult assignments was to watch The Ghosts of Rwanda and write a paper answering some critical thought questions. I thought I would share my submission with you all in hopes that it will get you thinking, if you aren’t already, about how we can make a difference in critical times.
I am sickened by the fact that I don’t recall with greater detail the genocide in Rwanda. I am aware now that Tutsis were a persecuted minority for decades. And a devious plan to exterminate them hatched by Hutu extremists, in power since the country’s independence from Belgium in the 1960’s, ultimately succeeded in the murder of over 800,000 people.
Based upon the colonial era where a great ethnic divide was created with the Belgian rule and the eugenics movement in Europe. Measuring skulls, height and skin color, led to a belief that the Tutsi’s had Caucasian ancestry, and were therefore racially superior to the Hutus. A doctrine of hate and fear pushed upon the Rwandan people succeeded in convincing them that the Tutsis were foreigners in the land, and in fact had enslaved and tortured the Hutus.
The history of Tutsi torture upon the Hutus may well be fully accurate, however this backstory was not used for the good of the people. Where the Hutus could have come about this from a position of greater good, in walking the high road of forgiveness, vengeance inspired greater hostility and mounted an atrocity upon their fellow citizens.
I have been asking myself how it is that, in 1994 I was so wrapped up in myself that I was not stunned into disbelief and moved to call for action on behalf of the people being executed in Rwanda. I still don’t have the answer. What I do know is that I am appalled that my government had a debate about the word ‘genocide’. It is unimaginable to me how lawmakers and bureaucrats were locked into “the legal definition” of a word as though the unspeakable acts in Rwanda were just verbiage.
On top of this the Belgians also chose to stay out of the conflict. The concern from Europeans and America was great enough to launch a military rescue operation, but that compassion extended only to those with the right citizenry. Somehow they managed to turn their backs on absolutely barbaric acts. How could they?
Some nineteen years later, I sit on the comfort of my living room couch shocked into action and I can speak boldly and point my finger and proclaim, “YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE MORE!” But I must ask myself if I, in their positions, would have allowed the fears of overreaction in acknowledging the genocide in Rwanda to stop me in my tracks? I would hope that I would have taken a very demanding stance, sadly, I may too have responded in the same way.
I have been in the position of an expat living in a foreign country, with a high anti-American sentiment at times. When I lived in Uruguay I did so willingly. I was there to serve and minister to the people. In much the same way, and quite possibly greater, the Rwandan aid workers were there to help in some capacity. Though US government officials were there to serve the United States, over their time there they naturally developed relationships with the Rwandan people. During a particularly difficult Uruguayan presidential election there were fears over civil unrest should a certain party win. As a result I spent quite a bit of time in deep thought, asking myself hard questions over what I would do if Americans were to be evacuated. I can say that had something like this happened in Uruguay I determined to send my children to safety, and fight to stay in the country to help my friends and loved ones.
I was there because I wanted to make a difference in their lives for what I believed in. If I abandoned them in their greatest time of need all I had done to that point would have been for naught. I truly believe that the people who stayed behind and risked their lives to save Rwandan people did so because they so greatly valued human life it called them to action. That belief compelled them to stand against evil no matter the personal cost. I admire them greatly for their bravery and hope that I too would have a portion of their courage.