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NCC TO HOST REMEMBRANCE OF 10th ANNIVERSARY OF RWANDAN GENOCIDE
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Samantha Power to Keynote April 23 Event in Los Angeles
April 7, 2004, NEW YORK CITY – The National Council of Churches USA will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide with an April 23 event in Los Angeles. "Remembering Rwanda - Ten Years After the Genocide” will feature Samantha Power, who won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.
Free and open to the public, the 7 p.m. event will be held in Fowler Museum’s Lenart Auditorium, on the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles. Preceding the program, at 6 p.m., Kimberlee Acquaro's short film, God Sleeps in Rwanda, will have its premiere screening. The evening will close with a presentation of Rwandan music and dance.
The event is being held as part of the World Council of Churches' Decade to Overcome Violence and of an international initiative called "Remembering Rwanda 1994-2004," which is inspiring commemorations this month in cities around the world. The Rwanda Investment and Promotion Agency of Los Angeles provided organizational support.
The Rwandan Genocide is a tragic chapter in the history of the 20th century. In April 1994, hostilities between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples were at such a point that, when the President, who was a Hutu, was killed in a plane crash, it touched off a genocide that resulted in the deaths of more than 800,000 Tutsi and several thousand moderate Hutu. While the events leading up to the genocide may still be debated, what is clear is that the international community - including the United States and the United Nations - failed to prevent it from taking place.
Samantha Power is a leading authority on genocide. In A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, she analyzes the genocides of the 20th century and the responses of the United States to these horrors.
What she found is striking. As she writes: "It is daunting to acknowledge, but this country's consistent policy of nonintervention in the face of genocide offers sad testimony not to a broken American political system but to one that is ruthlessly effective. The system, as it stands now, is working. No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on."
Citing a case in point in an April 6, 2004, op-ed in The New York Times, Power warned, “On this anniversary, Western and United Nations leaders are expressing their remorse and pledging their resolve to prevent future humanitarian catastrophes. But as they do so, the Sudanese government is teaming up with Arab Muslim militias in a campaign of ethnic slaughter and deportation that has already left nearly a million Africans displaced and more than 30,000 dead. Again, the United States and its allies are bystanders to slaughter, seemingly no more prepared to prevent genocide than they were a decade ago.”
"For all the horror of the Rwandan Genocide, it remains largely a forgotten episode in the recent history of the world for most Americans," said Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, the NCC's associate general secretary for international affairs and peace.
Dr. Kireopoulos said he looks forward to Ms. Power’s remarks, during which she will dissect the Rwandan Genocide and offer proactive steps that the international community can take to prevent such horrors from happening again.
"This is crucial for all of us, especially at a time when, in places like Sudan, the situation is looking alarmingly familiar,” he said. “Can we afford not to learn the lessons of Rwanda?"
The event "Remembering Rwanda - Ten Years After the Genocide" will also include remarks by Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches; Dr. Richard Hrair Dekmejian, Professor of Political Science at the University of Southern California and an expert on the history of the Armenian Genocide, and Rabbi Allen I. Freehling, Executive Director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission. The program also will include testimonies by Rwandan Genocide survivors.
The event received organizational support from the Rwanda Investment and Promotion Agency.
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