April was Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month; a time when survivors, activists and advocates came together to commemorate past genocides, to call for action to stop ongoing genocides and to prevent the intensification of future conflicts. Commemorations for the genocides that scourged Armenia, Bosnia, Cambodia Rwanda, Darfur and the Holocaust were held throughout the month of April. Each of these tragic events in history are recalled in order to honor the millions murdered in cold-blood, to remember the millions of people who have (and continue to be) devastated by the egregious crimes inflicted upon them and to commit the brutality to humanity’s memory so to incite preventative action when confronted with escalating conflicts.
This past month, more specifically, signified the 19th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide; the one-hundred day mass slaughter of ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus. The 1994 genocide has held particular significance in genocide prevention discourse since, unlike any other genocide in the twentieth century, every step of the escalating ethnic conflict was documented by national media. And even though the genocide unfolded before the world’s eyes, there was no international intervention. The world sat idly by and watched as at least 800,00 people were massacred.
Broaching twenty years since the Rwandan genocide, real change in international response is expected. That is why we dedicated April to raising awareness to the genocide by highlighing our Rwanda survivors' stories in combination with a short we recently produced about the commemorative ceremonies held in Kigali, Rwanda. The genocide left millions without homes, without families and without faith in humanity. However, 19 years later, the Rwandan people have come together to reconstruct a better, stronger and more united society.
Last month, we had the honor of meeting Daphrose Mukarutamu, a Rwandan genocide survivor and the inspiration of the Duhozanya Association. Literally meaning ‘let us console one another,’ the Duhozanya Association brings Rwandans together to share in their common grief, mourn with one another and then overcome together. The organization serves thousands of members,including: widows, orphans, child-headed households, women victims of rape and women infected with HIV/AIDS. In an effort to help these victims rebuild their lives, the Association provides a spectrum of services. These primarily consist of emotional support groups, coping techniques for trauma victims and tools for economic empowerment. While there are still festering wounds for most (if not all) of these women survivors, Duhozanya provides a place of healing and hope and has helped many of these Rwandan women achieve political and economic self-sufficiency. Their ability to overcome the unthinkable and to triumph over adversity is demonstrative of the type of future Rwanda, and all nations that have been plagued by mass atrocities, has - one paved with strength and resilience.
We also had the privilege to attend the Commemoration of the Rwanda Genocide at the United Nations. During the ceremony, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said:
Collectively, we must go beyond words and effectively safeguard people at risk. And individually, we must nurture the courage to care – and the resolve to act. Only by meeting these challenges can we match the resolve of the survivors and truly honour the memory of those who died in Rwanda 19 years ago.
Ban Ki-moon’s speech called for collective action today against modern-day atrocities. It is as obvious as it is unfortunate that innocent people continue to unnecessarily suffer in the twenty-first century. For over 60 years, the Tibetan people have been politically, culturally and religiously oppressed by the Chinese government. The cries of self-immolators, a form of Tibetan protest, remain ignored. The victims of the Darfur genocide continue to be denied justice as the Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, suspected to be responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, remains at large. Those who have survived Bashir’s wrath and the ongoing conflict have been indefinitely displaced, amounting to 1.4 million IDPs. In the last year, tens of thousands of Syrian civilians have been ruthlessly killed by the Assad regime. It is predicted that, left on its current trajectory, Syria will witness mass atrocities and ethnic cleansing that could amount to genocide in certain areas.
Even though we are no longer in the month of April, we must stay vigilant in our fight against human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. Out of the ashes of the genocide, Rwanda has, indeed, been able to make incredible progress towards a more peaceful and just society. However, if we take away only one lesson from this horrendous moment in history, it’s that innocent blood was spilt in a conflict that could have been avoided entirely.
This month, continue to educate yourself. Hear the testimonies of survivors of genocide and understand why this century must mark a no-tolerance policy towards atrocities.
In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.
The above poem is taken from Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness by Carolyn Forché, an anthology of literature that sits on the 3G bookshelf and is often referenced to remind us of the important work we do here. Just as Against Forgetting is a collection of poetic works by witnesses to the struggles and sufferings of the past century, 3 Generations is a collection of stories by survivors of egregious crimes since the advent of ‘modern’ genocide. Just as Forché and the hundreds of authors in his compendium understood the importance of not forgetting these devastating events, 3 Generations also understands the importance of remembering so we do not allow similar events to occur in the future.
Our dedication to preserve the memory of these victims of senseless violence and to accurately portray the past has led to the recent incorporation of a world map on the 3 Generations website. This interactive addition provides the history to these genocides and other conflicts from around the world, allowing our viewers to better contextualize the stories they hear. We are also constantly utilizing our social media channels to keep as many people as we can informed about these countries grappling with the ghosts of their past and current crimes against humanity.
It is with our deepest regret that we still have news to report as human rights abuses continue to take place. One of the most notorious being the Chinese government’s persecution of the Tibetan people whose augmented assault on Tibetan culture has led to a tremendous rise in self-immolations over these last few months. As we stand witness to repetition of ‘dark times’, we all must realize that it is of a moral imperative that the songs of these survivors are not only sung but also heard.
Hear their stories & Demand Change.
Thank you for your continued support.
Just google search Cambodia, Rwanda, or Tibet in the news and you'll find plenty of current stories of unrest and injustice in these three regions. Today in Cambodia a radio broadcaster was imprisoned without solid evidence for allegedly speaking out against the government, meanwhile the citizens of Rwanda are still plagued by rebel armies and a government that does not fully acknowledge the 1994 genocide that took the lives of nearly a million people. And just this past Saturday in Tibet a man self-immolated in protest of the exile of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government's totalitarian and oppressive control of the region. As we've said before, all of three of these places lack the basic freedoms that we enjoy in the western world - freedom of speech, expression, and religion.
Each day people in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Tibet suffer human rights abuses and it is our responsibility, the responsibility of those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a democracy, to raise awareness for the on-going plight of these three countries. At 3 Generations we believe that education is a significant tool for inspiring global change and eradicating injustice and we use film to help shed light on these specific situations. We are launching a new website this month and with the launch of the website will come new videos highlighting the past and present situations in these regions. But if you'd like to get a jump start in educating yourself and others on these specific issues, we already have a number of videos housed on our current website featuring survivors' stories. We appreciate your continued support.
There is still much political and social unrest in the Cambodia, Rwanda, and Tibet involving violence. The Cambodian government that is currently in place continues to be accused of corruption and Cambodians are still struggling to gain both domestic and international recognition for the abuse and genocide under the former reign of the Khmer Rouge. Similarly, in Rwanda the people are still dealing with a government that often ignores the cries of the community and does not fully acknowledge the 1994 genocide that took the lives of over 800,000 people. And in Tibet, the Chinese government is still in control, exiling the Dalai Lama, and persecuting anybody who openly speaks out against them. In all of three of these places, the basic freedoms that we enjoy in the western world are almost non existant. With that said, it is our responsibility to continue to shine a light on these situations with our films. We are launching a new website this summer and with the launch of the website will come new videos highlighting the past and present situations in these regions and we hope you will continue to support this work that we're doing.
We are currently planning a series of short films that will focus on the stories of survivors of genocide from Cambodia, Rwanda, and Tibet. Our goal is to post these videos on our organization's website, in hopes of creating more awareness and support for surrounding this issue. The violence and the recovery in these three regions is on-going; political unrest is prevalent in Tibet, while Rwandans are still recovering from and fighting for governmental acknowledgment of the mass genocide that took place in 1994. These areas and their survivors still desperately need our help and attention.
We are continuing our work with other organizations that are also geared towards helping survivors of genocide, especially those from these plagued regions. Our work on this topic has gained national recognition; currently, a group of high school students from California found out about the work we've done with genocide survivors through GlobalGiving and they have launched their own initiative to try and raise money for the same cause.
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3 Generations Founder and President