Today marks 21 years since the beginning of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. April 7, 1994 killings started all across Rwanda. It was a year before I even entered into this world and yet I still feel the wounds of the 100 days of mass murder in Rwanda. The genocide against the Tutsi cannot be explained. It was rationalized by its perpetrators and its history can be traced, but the acts of ordinary citizens murdering over a million cannot be explained.
“If you must remember, remember this…The Nazis did not kill six million Jews…Nor the Interhamwe kill a million Tutsi, they killed one and then another, then another…Genocide is not a single act of murder, it is millions of acts of murder.” – Stephen D. Smith
Today marks the beginning of Kwibuka, Kinyarwanda for “remember,” the National Commemoration Week for the genocide against the Tutsi. The week begins with a commemorative lighting of the flame of hope at the Kigali genocide memorial and ends with “A Walk to Remember” that my classmates and I plan to participate in. Throughout the week, local communities plan and carry out commemoration services where survivors are able to give their testimony and share their wounds that are just beginning to heal. The week is solemn, quiet, and filled with grief. Little is open throughout the city as Rwandans come together to remember the gruesome past of their country and work to move forward towards unity and peace.
“When they said ‘Never Again’ after the Holocaust, was it meant for some people and not others?” – Apollon Kabahizi
I remember in 10th grade when our Jewish Confirmation class went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and I was introduced to more in depth history and memory of the Holocaust. I also learned that not only were Jews murdered but so were gypsies, disabled people, and gay people. At the Museum I purchased a pin that said “Never Again” because I believed as a Jew the history of the Holocaust was my history and I was responsible to ensure it would never happen again. My responsibility, I believed, was not only to ensure that a genocide against the Jews never occurred again but also, and more importantly, that genocide itself never occurred again. I can connect to the Holocaust because the ideology of the Final Solution would have put me in death’s grip. That connection also extends to other ideologies in our collective history that have intended to eliminate other people groups. “Never Again” is about more than myself, or my people. “Never Again” is about all people.
“Genocide is likely to occur again. Learning about it is the first step to understanding it. Understanding it is important to respond to it. Responding to it is essential to save lives. Otherwise ‘Never Again’ will remain ‘Again and Again and Again…’” – Unknown
In our program we constantly ask ourselves what we do with the information we are learning. Although clear answers are hard to come by when talking about genocide, I have concluded that what I know I can do is pass some of what I know on. We cannot allow the ideologies of genocide, including discrimination and prejudice, to remain acceptable in our society. We cannot allow ourselves to be desensitized to senseless killings in countries far from our own. Towards the beginning of our program in Rwanda, we attended a few genocide memorials and I was asked to write a comment for our group in one of the guest books. Words don’t come easy when standing in the middle of a church where thousands were slaughtered, but I did my best:
“We take responsibility to understand. We take responsibility to educate. We take responsibility to act.”
I want to ensure that through the rest of my life I take these responsibilities seriously. Today I want to share these responsibilities with you. Please take a moment to remember the lives of over one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda that were murdered. Please take a moment to remember the lives of those that lost loving family members and are struggling with those memories today. Please take a moment to remember the lives of those that perpetrated the genocide and are asking for forgiveness for their actions and transgressions. Please take a moment to tell someone about this tragedy. Please remember and please NEVER AGAIN.
Check out http://www.kwibuka.rw/ for more information on commemoration.