We publish here an extract from a thought piece by Noam Schimmel on the Commemoration of the 26th Anniversary of the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda
Survivors in Rwanda still need safe housing, they still need legal support, they still need scholarships for education, they still need grants to alleviate poverty, and they require intensive health services to meet their unique needs, including mental health and trauma support services. Mental health provisions for survivors are woefully inadequate and have led to a mental health crisis and suicides because there is not enough support for them.
We must all listen respectfully and with humility to survivors with open hearts and minds. We must trust you, include you, and stand with you.
We must understand the difference between equity and equality.
Because the failure to recognize the distinctive inequalities, injustices, and vulnerability survivors face which are social, systemic, and economic fails at equity and ultimately makes a mockery of equality, and while this harms survivors first and foremost it also undermines Rwanda and Rwandans as a whole and the goal of a united Rwanda.
Justice and human rights cannot be built on denial of hard realities, your realities.
You, the survivors, have rights to consultation, compensation, participation, representation, inclusion, rehabilitation and reparation and these must be respected.
You, the survivors, are a sacred remnant.
You, the survivors are the living testimony of your parents and grandparents.
August Wilson, the African-American playright said about African-Americans and it speaks to survivors too,
“We’re still here, still managing through it all to find a way to live life with dignity and a certain amount of nobility.”
You who were hated for being tall stand tall as ever.
You who were hated with ferocious jealousy and resentment for your beauty are beautiful as ever and always will be. Nothing and no one will ever change that.
You who were hated for your dignity are dignified as ever and no one will ever be able to take that dignity away from you nor to take it away from every Tutsi murdered in the genocide.
It is intrinsic to their and your humanity.
May the Biblical prophecy of all living at peace under the shade of a fruit tree and the vision of the prophet Micah that all should love peace and do justice in a spirit of humility come to define a self-reliant and sovereign Rwanda. A Rwanda in which all its diverse inhabitants whatever their faith, background, and identity live without fear on the basis of freedom, equality, and justice as guaranteed by Rwanda’s Constitution.
As we commemorate, let us remember the words of warning and admonition of Primo Levi, a survivor of the genocide of the Jews of Europe whose words to memorialize that genocide cry out to us today and every day and who echo an ancient Jewish prayer, “You who live safe, in your warm homes. You who find, returning home in the evening, hot food and friendly faces, meditate that this came about. I command these words to you. Carve them in your hearts, at home, in the streets, going to bed, rising, repeat them to your children.”
Remember the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
Remember Murambi and Nyanza and Ntarama and the Nyabarongo River.
Remember our Tutsi people who were abandoned to their killers.
Noam Schimmel is a Professorial Lecturer at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University