Kendra Sommers, Student Writer

“What we should bring awareness to is the fact that genocide does not happen randomly. It is something that is planned for years. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of hate speech, to get people to turn against one another,” said Gloria Igihozo, President of the Multicultural Council here at Messiah College.

Born and raised in the post genocide nation of Rwanda, Igihozo shared her experiences in the Human Library this week as a part of Genocide Awareness Month on campus. “I’d say it wasn’t any easy experience,” Igihozo explained, “But it was a much-needed experience. The more I share this story the more it becomes real for some people … if my experience can teach someone something, then it was worth it.”

April was chosen as Genocide Awareness Month due to it “unfortunately be[ing] a significant month in the planning and implementation of genocide,” according to the USC Shoah Foundation (https://sfi.usc.edu/genocide-awareness-month). April 1915 the Ottomans began the first stages of the Armenian Genocide; April 1933, the Nazis began to implement ostracizing laws towards the Jews; April 1975, the Khmer Rouge took over the capital of Cambodia and began their reign of annihilation; April 1994, a missile was launched at the President of Rwanda’s aircraft, sparking the slaughter against the Tutsi.

“What I would hope for people to take away from this month,” Igihozo declared, “is honestly to care; to care about others, to care about the issues that happen around them, and to care about those in our communities that are being mistreated and marginalized in different ways.”

She offered many suggestions on how to get involved, but it is important to first educate yourself on these issues, and then to move beyond just the initial empathy. “It is a good thing to have because human empathy is the first and foremost thing that we should all have, but then after that, you need to ask yourself: what can I do to help?”

Besides volunteering and donating, Igihozo also suggested emailing your representatives asking them for help, starting prayer vigils and furthering the discussion to bring more awareness to these issues. “There’s always something to do, it just takes the extra effort of finding out what you can do to help.”

The USC Shoah Foundation also has on their website a catalog of “stories for Genocide Awareness Month on the impact of testimony in genocide research, education and prevention,” (https://sfi.usc.edu/genocide-awareness-month/stories). The Genocide Education Project also has many survivor accounts and materials to help further your knowledge on genocide and how it has impacted our world (https://genocideeducation.org/resources/survivor-accounts/).  

The Multicultural Council has held various events throughout this month for genocide awareness including the display in the library which will be accessible until the rest of the month, as well as showing the documentary Children of Genocide: The Five that Survived. While the documentary showing and the Human Library have passed, the month is not over and on April 30, 2019, there will be a panel discussion in Boyer 131, discussing the most effective ways to talk about genocide and about faith-based policies to help prevent genocide.

Featured image retrieved from livingubuntu.org

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