Advocacy and education critical to prevent future atrocities

thumb thumb RwandaIn 1994, an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu people were killed in the Rwandan Genocide. Each survivor carries a story about how they escaped the killing, including survivors living in Calgary.

Earlier this month, the Rwanda Canadian Society of Calgary remembered loved ones lost during the Rwandan Genocide.

Clotilde Uwiragiye, a Tutsi, was harboured by sympathetic Hutu at age 11. She said they told her that despite killing her father, they would try and save her and her sister because their father had been a "good neighbour."

 She managed to escape to Congo – dressed as a schoolgirl.

She lost both her parents, but was reunited with her brothers in an orphanage in Congo.

"Twenty years ago we lost our parents, families, friends and neighbours. No farewell word was spoken and there was no way to say goodbye," Uwiragiye told about 200 people who attended the remembrance ceremony at Mount Royal University on April 12.

She said that telling her story for the first time in public at the commemoration was a way to remember her parents and to begin the process of forgiveness.

"I wanted to share my testimony... and how I forgive the people who did the genocide."

Mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke at the event about how commemoration ceremonies give the community an opportunity to mourn and to "never forget" the atrocities caused by our fellow human beings.

Mayor Nenshi said Calgarians need to remember that we live in a community of peace and tolerance that took hard work to build. He added that it's important that Calgary lives up to its promise to accommodate immigrants and that there is a need for people to speak out.

"We need to advocate with our governments, particularly our federal government, to say it is the right thing for Canada to do — to intervene in things like this. It is the right thing to do — to to intervene in places like Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan," he said.

As for Uwiragiye, now 31, she said preventing tragedies must also include educating young people.

"Remembrance of the genocide is a duty for everyone, it is also the job to teach and pass on that responsibility to the youth so that in time they can pass it on. Sharing our history, some of which has been tragic, will help us prevent future evil."

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