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University remembers Rwanda genocide

OpenGrounds hosts three events to recognize 20th anniversary

The OpenGrounds studio on the Corner will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide this week by hosting a series of events which aim to focus on a reconciliation of the events which occurred — not a reliving of them.

“We felt it’s an important tragedy to remember and commemorate and to look back as American citizens,” said event planner Madison Lahey, a first-year College student.

Lahey planned the series to recognize an event she felt is not given enough attention in the United States, specifically in the public school system.

“I heard about the genocide offhandedly when I was about 12 or 13,” she said. “What shocked me the most is this is not taught in American public schools. I only came across this as a paragraph in a history textbook.”

The events began Tuesday with a talk about the American response and the ethics of humanitarian intervention in Rwanda by Assoc. Politics Prof. Michael Smith, who teaches a foreign affairs course on ethics and human rights.

“It is very important for us to remember the magnitude of our collective failure to respond to these horrific events that unfolded,” Smith said.

Smith has personally interacted with many of the actors involved in American deliberations regarding intervention back in 1994, having since met with White House staff and spoken with them about the lack of American response.

Smith held the talk in a seminar format to gauge student knowledge of the event, since most of were either very young or not born when the genocide occurred. He found those who were most knowledgeable about the event were international students.

“We talked about if we have learned anything from this,” Smith said. “Have we developed institutions and policies to prevent something like this from occurring again? For people of my generation, it was a searing experience, and for college-aged students, it was something in the past.”

The next commemorative event will be held Thursday night, when artist Renee Balfour will recount working with youth heads of household in Rwanda. Balfour was contacted by Lahey because she was hosted by the University at OpenGrounds last October.

“I was really drawn in with her emphasis on art and her experience that was removed, but also inextricably linked to the genocide,” Lahey said.

The final event, which will take place Friday, is a screening of “Flowers of Rwanda,” an award-winning documentary which highlights the healing and reconciliation process within Rwanda since the 1994 genocide.