Tuesday, April 11, 2006

This Is No Ordinary Man: Paul Rusesabagina

Last evening, I had the pleasure of seeing Paul Rusesabagina speak at George Mason University's Center for the Arts. Rusesabagina played a major role in saving over 1200 Rwandan refugees during the slaughter of what would become millions throughout the country. Rusesabagina’s bravery and dedication to saving the lives of his people inspired the 2004 award winning film, Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina. In this informative lecture, Rusesabagina gave a detailed account of what happened at the Hotel des Mille Collines in April of 1994 and the effects that it had on him as an individual. He spoke of the atrocities of genocide inflicted upon the Tutsis by the Hutu. He also spoke of the United Nations role in allowing these atrocities to happen and how the West chose to walk away from the situation.
He went on to say that they could have, at least, silenced the radios in and around Rwanda that were spewing hate messages and fueling the already intense animosity the Hutus had for the Tutsi. Did this experience change him as a person? Rusesabagina said that it is now very difficult for him to trust after what happened in Rwanda. The people who he thought he could trust left him and his family to die at the hands of rebels who wanted to wipe out an entire race of Tutsi or “cockroaches” as they were called. He mentioned that it takes him a while to trust when dealing with people on an individual basis.

Overall, it was a great experience to see and hear Paul Rusesabagina speak. He urged everyone (especially the next generation) to do all we can to make sure that the genocide anywhere never happens again. Unfortunately, I looked around the audience and saw many of that generation sleeping through the lecture. Meanwhile, “History continues to repeat itself over and over again,” he said. He urged us to speak out, write to our congress, petition, send money or do anything to make our voices heard. Paul signed copies of his book, "An Ordinary Man: The Story of Hotel Rwanda.” I picked up a copy to be signed and finally made it to the front of the line. I asked my wife do the honors. In the end, I didn’t get a chance to shake Paul Rusesabagina’s hand amidst all of the madness and rush, but I did manage to smile at him while he was signing a book for us and he smiled back. God bless you Mr. Rusesabagina.

He also brought attention to the genocide that is taking place n Darfur where the Sudanese Government is using Arab “Janjaweed” militias (air force) to murder several hundred thousand black Sudanese through organized starvation. His question to us was, who will speak for them? Who will speak for them?
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