Reflections during a visit to Rwanda…
Twenty-two years ago a terrible genocide occurred and left Rwanda devastated; those who survived were left to rebuild the nation. The Genocide Memorial is a moving tribute to Rwanda’s fresh history and to those that lost their lives in the massacre.
Exhibitions detail life before the genocide, those affected by the genocide, and honor the lives that would have been if the genocide had not happen.
It was difficult. As a passing tourist, not someone who sees the everyday effects in Rwanda or values the memorial as a space to be close to loved ones, it was still difficult.
Because of recent events, I could not help but continue to think of the Orlando shooting, how innocent lives were lost. I am in no way comparing one of the worst mass shootings in the US to the scale of a genocide. But I am comparing it to ignorant persecution. And I am saying that this persecution happens every day.
It happens when someone crosses the street because an African American man is approaching from the other side. It happens when 3 Muslim students are shot in Chapel Hill, NC and it is attributed to a parking dispute. It happens when a white male athlete is given a six month jail sentence for sexual assault, whereas any other minority would be charged with more. It happened in Rwanda. And it happened in Orlando.
There was a moving quote from the Talmud at the memorial, “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
Persecution may start small and build upon tiny prejudices we have seen from media or inherited over generations, but the results of acts of prejudice are huge. By accepting and tolerating, we are not just accepting and tolerating one person, we are accepting a community in a world that rejects them. We are teaching future generations to love instead of hate. Prejudice will continue to exist if we do not play our part in stopping it.