Peace Boat US was in attendance at the 20th year anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, held at the United Nations on February 27th, a day that marked the end of a conflict which left over 800,000 people dead within a period of 100 days in the central African country.
The commemoration of the Rwanda genocide is in alignment with Peace Boat US’s efforts to embrace cross-cultural understanding, respect for human rights, and peace among all peoples.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the General Assembly John W. Ashe, and Rwanda’s H.E. Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana gave statements during the event, followed by the testimony of Rwandan author and genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza and Canadian academic Gerald Caplan.
The speeches centered on the topics of remembrance, union and renewal with the frequent reference to what the secretary general called “an epic failure of the international community” to stop the 1994 genocide. There was also emphasis on the need to unite so that ethnic killing never takes place again, and the healing experienced in Rwanda during the last 20 years where women represent half of the parliament and there are currently 25 universities compared to only 2 in the early 1990s.
Mrs. Ilibagiza talked about her experience as a genocide survivor, living in a small bathroom for three months with 8 other people without being able to talk for fear of being heard and killed. Even though she lost her entire immediate and extended family, her message was not that of hatred, anger or even sadness, but of peace and forgiveness. Her last statement for the attendees was that “we are capable of peace.”
The speech by Mr. Caplan, author of “Rwanda Preventable Genocide,” focused on the culpability of the Catholic Church, Belgium, France, America, and the UN as well as the Rwandan Tutsi and Hutu for embracing Western separatist and extremist ideologies that led to mutual killing. His call was for all victims of genocide including those from Rwanda, Cambodia, Germany and Darfur to exercise their responsibility to work harder than anyone else.
For more information on the worldwide three-month commemoration of the Rwanda Genocide, please check the Kwibuka homepage at http://kwibuka.org.
This post was created and published by Susan Vente (Intern from Peace Boat US)