Symposium on Genocide Discusses Awareness and Prevention — Session I

The Rwandan-American Community of the Midwest and the Peace Center for Forgiveness and Reconciliation hosted a Symposium on Genocide at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana on April 26 and 27, 2019. This year’s commemoration marks the 25th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda when an estimated 1 million people were killed over a 100-day period from April to July 1994.

The first session on Friday was titled “Genocide Awareness and Prevention” and featured a panel of four speakers. Jean-Marie Kamatali, professor of law and director of the Center for Democratic Governance and Rule of Law at Ohio Northern University Law School, addressed the ways colonialism incited conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi over the decades leading up to the genocide. According to Kamatali, before colonialization, the inhabitants of Rwanda fell into three main groups: Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. These were largely considered social classes until Rwanda came under German rule in the late 1800s. Colonialism brought with it ethnic theories based on differences in physical appearance like nose length and height, with the colonists viewing the Tutsi as racially superior and favoring them for roles in government. Then, in the early 1930s, the government introduced ID cards that labeled the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa as different ethnicities. These actions caused oppression among the Hutu who in 1959 staged a revolution and overthrew the Tutsi regime, causing many Tutsi to flee to neighboring countries. Hutus came to power and reigned for the next three decades, despite opposition from the Rwandan Patriot Front (RPF), led by exiled Tutsis.

During this time, the ideology of division became stronger, channeled through extremist media outlets that promoted anti-Tutsi propaganda like the Hutu Ten Commandments. What happened in 1994 didn’t happen by accident, Kamatali told the audience. It was a direct result of training and teaching that indoctrinated ordinary citizens with an ideology of genocide, leading to neighbors killing neighbors, family killing family, and friends killing friends.

Kamatali then discussed the definition of genocide: an intent to destroy a specific group of people. The actual destruction of the entire group is not required for it to constitute genocide. Likewise, there is no numeric threshold.

The second speaker, Marie-Rose Gatete, a CPA in Elkhart, Indiana, presented on the role of the United Nations (UN) and world leaders in preventing genocide, and the ways they failed in that role. “When you look at the case of Rwanda, it looks like the UN failed on all counts,” said Gatete. The UN had been alerted to the imminent threat of genocide in January 1994 by Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire who had been sent to Rwanda with less than 500 soldiers for peace-keeping efforts, but his concerns over the following months were ignored. After repeated requests to intervene to stop the fighting and being told no by the UN, Dallaire finally defied orders and his troops, along with the RPF, were able to put an end to the genocide.

It’s only been in recent years, Gatete said, that world leaders have finally apologized for their inaction. United States President Bill Clinton expressed regret in 1998, stating he did not fully appreciate the seriousness of the situation at the time, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Canadian Stateswoman Michaëlle Jean both apologized in 2010 for their countries’ inaction, New Zealand diplomat Colin Keating, who was president of the UN Security Council at the start of the genocide, apologized in 2014, and the Catholic Church apologized in 2016 for the role its members — including priests — played in the killings.

The third speaker for Session 1 was Charles Rufuku, a science professor in Eklhart and former director of the SDA Mission Hospital in Rwanda. “There’s no way to talk about the genocide in our country without talking about colonialism,” he began, going on to discuss the history of exploration beginning with missionary David Livingstone in the 1800s, and the valuable resources like gold, ivory, and rubber he discovered that caused European interest in Africa to take root.

Rufuku also spoke to the difficulties of reconciliation between the Hutu and Tutsi. In the aftermath of the genocide, everyone considered the Hutu as the “bad guys” and the Tutsi as the “good guys,” said Rufuku. But labels like this are harmful, and instead we should point to the specific people who were victims and perpetrators, rather than blanket statements about groups. This is the first step toward reconciliation, he concluded.

Pamela Cronkright, an educator from Ottawa, Illinois, spoke fourth on the transformational journey learning about the genocide had been for her. When she was teaching a global studies course to high school freshman in 2009, she realized how little she knew about the genocide in Rwanda. She began learning all she could from survivors like Immaculee Mukantaganira who organized this symposium. Cronkright and Mukantaganira traveled to Rwanda together in 2013, where Mukantaganira introduced her to more survivors, and they visited the memorials scattered around the country to lay flowers on the mass graves.

Mukantaganira’s own daughters, Raissa and Clarisse, are not listed on any memorial; their bodies had never been identified. When Cronkright returned to her classroom in Illinois, she asked students, “What can we do to make this world better?” Her students wanted to raise money to build a memorial well to honor Mukantaganira’s daughters. It took three years to raise the necessary funds. When it was time to choose where to build the well, instead of placing it in the town where Mukantaganira and her family had once lived, she chose to build it in the town where the people who murdered her family lived. Speaking to her choice she told Cronkright, “If it’s not education and it’s not love, the story never changes.”

Cronkright concluded with a quote that is etched on the wall of the Memorial Centre in Kigali: “Si tu me connaissais et si tu te connaissais vraiment, tu ne m’aurais pas tué” (If you knew me, and if you really knew yourself, you would not have killed me).

A brief Q&A followed Session 1. The question that received the most discussion was asked by a young man from Uganda. He said when he first saw the symposium program, he was concerned because instead of saying “Rwandan Genocide,” as it is commonly called, it said “Genocide against the Tutsi.”

“I was a little worried because there are always two sides in a conflict, and there are also additional groups who are always affected and targeted,” he said. Gatete responded by reminding him of the definition of genocide Dr. Kamatali had provided earlier. Genocide is about the intent to destroy a specific group. In the case of Rwanda, the target was one’s identity as Tutsi. Anyone with an ID card that said “Tutsi” was marked to be killed. Though there were other victims including moderate Hutu and Twa, these individuals were killed because they were thought to be aiding the Tutsi or sympathetic to their plight. “The Tutsi were specifically targeted which is why we call it the genocide against the Tutsi,” said Gatete.

Kamatali responded as well, stating, “I really find it disturbing when someone looks at something like genocide and says there are two sides…when it comes to genocide it is very clear and has been established that what happened in Rwanda was a genocide against the Tutsi.” He continued saying that the elements of genocide that were discussed have to be separated from the other types of crimes that were also committed, like war crimes and crimes against humanity, which the killings of moderate Hutu and Twa would fall under. “Not every killing is genocide, so we have to be very clear. But when we are talking about genocide, there is no ‘two sides.’ The definition of genocide is the intent to kill in whole or in part a specific group and that intent was clear in this situation,” concluded Kamatali.

Articles on additional symposium sessions are forthcoming.

Alisa Williams is managing editor of

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

_What was so barbaric and brutal about the Rwandan genocide, was that church members turned on fellow church members, often aided and abetted and egged on by their Adventist pastors.

The twentieth century saw a pandemic / plethora of genocides, starting with the willful massacre of more than a million Christians by Islamic ( Turkish ) radicals — the Armenian genocide.

The Bosnian genocide was the reverse, with Christians murdering Muslims

Hitler’s annihilation of the Jews in the horrific Holocaust was mind boggling in its magnitude and madness.

The Pol Pot genocide was a class warfare that exterminated one fifth of Cambodia’s population .

These genocides were so gruesome, grisly, ghastly and grim that one would have expected some reaction from the onlookers —-“EGW’s .”universe”. ( the “ good” Angels and ”unfallen “ beings on other planets ). At the very least, one would have anticipated that they would clamor to God to fast forward the Second curtail the carnage.

That the “universe” viewed these horrors with complacency and equanimity indicates that they had been iINURED and hardened to horror .

The OLD TESTAMENT is replete with God ordained genocides.

God’s chosen people were commissioned to carry out the extermination of neighboring tribes, including babes, infants, teenagers and even the innocent herds of animals, their neighbors possessed.

With so many gruesome God ordained genocides under their belts, no wonder the “universe”. viewed all future horrors with a ho hum, humdrum, insipid, DEJA VU response.

There is another way to interpret this. Evil is hard, it is very resistant to eradicate. The “onlookers” and God do not have a magic wand to wave that will instantly create peace and brotherhood to the madness of evil. Jesus gave no instant solution to his followers toward the demise of evil. Instead he said in the Sermon on the Mount to be peacemakers, to not resist evil and to love one’s enemies, by turning the cheek. During the Rwandan genocide–this would just get you killed by making you an easy target for the hateful.

Christians were to be the salt and light of the world–the compassionate, mercerful, gentle, meek, honest, truthful and loving. Thus from the bottom up by small amounts evil was to be naturalized. One by one. But sadly, we have lost the emphasis in our preaching and teachings of virtue ethics in our congregations. Insead the soul is saved by doctrines, Sabbath keeping, male headship, paying tithe, avoiding meats and tobacco etc. Money with its visible monuments rules the Christian communities. The more you have the more favored you are by God and the happier everyone is.

Jesus, in his SOM, would have us create new commandments, new 27-28 fundamentals–be merciful (compassionate) and you will receive mercy from God for your sins and mistakes. Be a peacemaker and you will be a called children of God. Be pure in heart (honesty, simple truthfulness, keeping promises, reliable and pure in speech) and you will see God. Because God and his company, enjoys the presence of the pure in heart and the peacemakers of the world.

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We are on the edge of relighting and refighting the civil war. ethnic identity is a game changer from the invitation imprinted on the base of the Statute of Liberty. . Even Ted Wilson is not above using ethnic bias to serve his ends. Jesus invites—“come unto Me all ye—






Christ cried out on the crucifixion cross : IT IS FINISHED , which clarifies that the atonement was complete and that evil and death ( genocides .) were completely conquered.

Yet more than two millennia later, apparently nothing is finished and evil still reigns supreme.

Had Christ indeed come in 1844, consider how many awful abhorrent atrocities would have been avoided —— not just the genocides I listed above, ,but the Civil WAR, the First World War, with its trench warfare and using gas as chemical weapons, , the Spanish Flu pandemic, Stalin’s Gulag, the Great Depression, the Second World War, — the London Blitz ——Nagasaki, Hiroshima ad infinitum.

Fast forwarding the Second Coming to 1844 ( makes me think that date is suspect ) would have avoided this avalanche of awful abhorrent atrocities. .

Christ ( allegedly ) entering the Sanctuary in 1844, instead of electing a triumphant return on that date, was evidently not an auspicious choice on His part!

The MIDDLE AGES, also called “the “ DARK AGES “ was almost a millenium of malignant misery for mankind —- millions living in poverty and filth and ignorance and illiteracy.— all avoidable if Christ’s cry on the cross was truly authentic.


Christ’s triumphant cry on the cross signaled that He had entirely eradicated evil and the the atonement was achieved.

So I hold God accountable for every ensuing century ( over twenty and counting) that EVIL was allowed to flourish, post crucifixion.

An expedited SECOND COMING would have eliminated egregious evil , and a magnitude of misery for mankind .

Is God a sadist that He exults in horrors like the Holocaust , while His “magic wand “ is deliberately not waved?

Alisa, I am glad you attended this. Great report for session 1. I look forward to hearing about the other sessions. Peace and courage.


I sense a note of deep pessimism toward heaven’s management of evil. I respect this, but draw different conclusions. I don’t see that the cross “eradicated evil” in any sense of the word. Jesus never took on Rome with its huge slavery-war machine. Neither are believers in Jesus free from acts of evil. Except a seed was planted of pacifism, love for humanity and unconditional forgiveness.

It’s hard to acknowledge mercy and justice, counter aspect of evil, in regard to heaven’s management of it in human history. The sad truth is righteousness is no match for machinations of evil. Evils’ demise is not an easy event, other then using a greater power, in a evil manner, to destroy it. The problem is to destroy evil, you should destroy mankind, because we are all evil. That is heaven’s dilemma. Maybe it can’t be rushed, as you would wish. Maybe it will take longer then we all would wish. But evil will end sometime, so says the cross and Jesus’ promise. In the meanwhile evil still has the field.

There is always a few amazing stories in every genocide. We find brave hearts stpping up and standing on the right side, putting their life at risk to save others. This happened in Rwanda, i wish those stories had as much attention as the genocide itself. We need those heroes to be famous in our community and in the world at large. Sadly this event showed that being a member of any institution or religious organization does not make one a better person. Therefore we should not let ourselves think God wants people to join certain institutions or religious groups, rather let us recognize that God is calling us to love all people courageously and that is all he wants. And just because that is all, doesn’t mean it’s not that big a deal. In this case Love is everything, because outside of love, there is nothing ultimately worthwhile in human relationships.

Thank you for this report

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The Gospel is the ANTIDOTE to un-neighborliness.
In the Gospel of Luke we have the ancestors of Jesus. It ends at ADAM.
The First Man and the Father of ALL Nations, ALL Peoples.
The Gospel IMPELLS Christians to understand that ALL Humans are
God’s children.
If the SDA church had been preaching the TRUE GOSPEL, the words
of Paul would have been demonstrated – there is no Jew, no Gentile,
ALL Humans are our kinfolk, our brothers and sisters, our family.

Actually, we should be preaching THIS Gospel around the world. Hindus,
Muslims, Buddhists are all brothers and sisters of the same God.
In Afghanistan all are children of God, and all worship the same God.
The Middle East – the same. Jews and Muslims worship the same God.
Both are children of the One God. Are brothers and sisters.
In the Middle East, Egypt, north Africa, The Muslims, the Coptics, the
other Christians ALL worship the SAME God.

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