Rwanda: 7 April 2017. Never Again!

Four words:

Duhore Tuzilikana Kirazira Kwibagirwa!

We Must Never Forget!

Today, 7 April 2017 is the 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi. 

by Alan Simons

In a few weeks time, on 23 April at sundown, Jews throughout the world observe Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. It is the day where we pay tribute to all the victims of the Holocaust and ghetto uprisings. Inaugurated 64 years ago we like you, have no intention of forgetting our loved ones. Therefore, as a Jew, my message to you is not from a stranger, but from a brother and partner. For in commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, your loss, is also my loss.

However, I ask myself what right do I have to speak of such experiences of genocide?

Who am I to speak of such unthinkable acts of violence and cruelty, unequaled in modern history?

I never witnessed killings, or had my life threatened. I never lost immediate family members, nor witnessed rape or sexual mutilation, or had to hide under corpses.

Rwanda April 7 2017 bSo, what authority gives me the right to speak about Rwanda’s genocide, to talk about your families and friends who perhaps survived these 23 years, and hopefully, I repeat hopefully, have been able to overcome their traumatic experiences and find optimism in the future, as well as speak of those who were murdered?

Well, a few years ago President Kagame of Rwanda, photographed above, said: “The world chose to watch as one million were being slaughtered. Victims were turned into perpetrators and justice was turned into a political tool. The world has shown us that we cannot afford not to fight. Do not be afraid to stand up for truth, justice and for who we are. The only way to live in this world is to stand up for ourselves, stay true to who we are and define our own destiny.”

Perhaps, more than anything, it is in these words that binds Jews and Rwandans together in a mutual understanding of what intolerance and hate is all about in our society today. And, we have only to look at the past few weeks of what happened in London, a few hours ago in Stockholm, as well as the gassing earlier this week of children and adults in Syria, to appreciate the scope and threat of the world we continue to live in.

Hate is hate, irrespective of one’s religion, colour or nationality.

Even now in Canada there are deniers of both the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust who continue to thrust their sick fermented ideas into the international arena. As Hitler remains centre stage to many antisemites, it was only a couple of months ago that Rwanda’s deniers actually competed to question who was to blame for the 1994 killings. 

It’s been said that sadness is but a wall between two gardens. May all of those who perished in the genocide be remembered for their beauty and fragrance that grace our gardens.

My dear Rwandan brothers and sisters, finding an appropriate way of honouring and remembering the dead is one of the goals of the mourning process. For, as Elie Wiesel the Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor said, “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

(Photo credits: From Paul Kagame’s Post, in Timeline Photos)

 

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Peace: Just a Concept Without Real Action

A Canadian Perspective

From the publisher of jewishinfoNews. The following article was originally published by Canada’s Mosaic Institute and republished with permission by jewishinfoNews on September 26, 2016.

bernie-farber-mosaic-institute
by Bernie M. Farber

This past Wednesday was “International Peace Day.” It is UN inspired and celebrated each year on September 21st. According to the United Nations website, “The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.”

Indeed, this year’s theme was “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.”

The UN in 2015 identified 17 sustainable goals that must be met in order to develop a peaceful world. Everything from the challenges of poverty, hunger and xenophobia to eradicating racism, political corruption ensuring clean safe water, protecting our environment-it is a list that is at once compelling and complex.

The world today remains very much a place on the edge. While here in the western world we have luxuries we never would have thought possible even a decade ago combined with ample supplies of food, clean water and democratic based governments, we are often the envy of countries that have far less.

And yes we are very fortunate. It is that good fortune then that gives us added responsibility.

And yet we still have so much to learn about the earth, diversity and peace. We need to be prepared to learn these lessons from sources that are not at first blush apparent.

Anne Wilson Schaef is a world renowned academic who has devoted much of her life to Indigenous culture and learning. In her book “Native Wisdom for White Minds” she tells of her work with Hawaiians among many other indigenous people. She relates the adage of one Hawaiian Elder who once said:

“The day Hawaiians disappear will be the day when the water no longer flows.”

Professor Schaef explains:

“What I have come to understand is that if we cannot save the redwoods or the whales or the Hawaiians, it is not their disappearance that is key. What is key is that we will have lost the level of consciousness that allows us to comprehend the importance of diversity to the survival of the planet. If we do not understand the need for diversity, nothing else matters.”

How the does all this intersect with International Peace Day? We all desire peace on a very direct and pragmatic level. Yet even here in Canada when we examine the UN’s “sustainable goals” how is our own report card?

At a time when Indigenous reserves are still on water advisory notices and have been for over 20 years; when despite political and government rhetoric that we are committed to cleaning river and lake water, the decision of the Ontario government to permit clear-cut logging that demonstrably increases mercury outputs into the water system next to the Grassy Narrows reserve remains a real threat; as Canada welcomes over 25,000 Syrian refugees but has yet to make a dent on Yazidi refugees that we acknowledge are facing genocide, how close are we to real peace?

Yes, International Peace day is a wonderful concept to embrace. But until we put real meaning behind the concept it is destined, sadly, to remain just that.

Bernie M. Farber was appointed Executive Director of Canada’s the Mosaic Institute in 2015. He is a native of Ottawa, Canada and a graduate of Carleton University. His long-spanning career in the not-for-profit sector includes the role of CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress (2005-2011) where he spearheaded multiple human and civil rights initiatives, inter-faith and inter-ethnic dialogues among Canada’s wide-ranging diverse communities including Rwandan genocide survivors, Darfurian survivors of the Janjaweed as well as working closely with the Canadian Roma community.

(Featured Image credit: divinereality)

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

RWANDA: We will never forget you

Opinion

genocide rwandaThis April marks the 21st anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and with it, like a memorial candle that is ignited every year at this time, we see once again a flurry of organisations and their sidekicks’ waiting on the sidelines to pronounce all that is bad with Rwanda.

One such organisation is the Rwandan National Congress in Canada, (RNC) made up of a small, insignificant bunch of exiled educated misfit individuals, who band together like the Merry Men of Robin Hood’s day, to pronounce in their zeal their hate and intolerance of Rwandan’s current political and economic society.

This past weekend these Merry Men shouted loud enough to be featured on the front page of the Toronto Star.

And who do they hold parley with? Christopher Black, who we read in the Toronto Star is the “Toronto-area lawyer who defended a Rwandan general in a 14-year war crimes tribunal.”

Black “claims the Rwandan government is threatening him with death.”

Black has stated that “a member of the Rwandan National Congress in Canada told him last month there is ‘credible and reliable information’ that the Rwandan regime has ‘sent a team to Canada in order to assassinate five people here,’” including him.

According to the Toronto Star (April 11, 2015), “Black is a controversial figure who holds strong views that challenge accepted wisdom on war crimes. He has argued the innocence of accused war criminal Slobodan Milosevic and attacked former international prosecutor Canadian Louise Arbour for halting an inquiry into the downing of the plane that killed the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in 1994 — the incident that triggered the genocide.”

The Toronto Star adds:

“His view of the [Rwandan] genocide is far from the accepted narrative. He alleges that the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front and [President] Kagame, then military leader, are also responsible for mass killings of political and military opponents during the genocide.”

This opinion, which many genocide deniers also constantly practice, remains one of the primary thrusts every April to cheapen the murder of over one million Rwandans. Twenty-one years has passed. Twenty-one years of recurrent heartfelt grief, and still the hate continues.

Yet today, Rwanda should be proud of itself. According to The World Bank, “Rwanda has achieved impressive development progress since the 1994 genocide and civil war. It is now consolidating gains in social development and accelerating growth while ensuring that they are broadly shared to mitigate risks to eroding the country’s hard-won political and social stability.

“These goals build on remarkable development successes over the last decade which include high growth, rapid poverty reduction and, since 2005, reduced inequality. Between 2001 and 2014, real GDP growth averaged at about 9% per annum. Recovering from the 2012 aid shortfall, the economy grew ‘7% (year-on-year) in 2014, 2.3 percentage high than in 2013’ ”

In addition, The World Bank states: “Women in Rwanda have made significant strides towards equality in the past few years and the country now boasts more women in parliament than any other country in the world.”

As Jews we stand shoulder to shoulder with Rwanda. For we also understand the meaning of hate, intolerance and genocide denial by our enemies. We will never forget our Rwandan brothers and sisters, nor the 300,000+ children who were also murdered.

We will remember you.

(Photo credit unknown)

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

Thank God there’s an Israel!

بفضل الله، هناك إسرائيل

ہم اسرائیل کے پاس خدا کا شکر ہے

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