A bouquet of flowers tied with a ribbon showing the message "Genocide Never Again" is pictured at the Kigali Genocide Memorial grounds as the country prepares to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. (CNS photo/Noor Khami, Reuters)

A bouquet of flowers tied with a ribbon showing the message “Genocide Never Again” is pictured at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. (CNS photo/Noor Khami, Reuters)

“Never Again” declared a ribbon that wrapped around a bouquet of flowers atop the mass grave at the Kigali Memorial Center in the capital city of Rwanda.

This was my first stop on a trip to Rwanda nearly three years ago. United to End Genocide had just been created to mobilize action to stop or prevent genocide and mass atrocities. As its President, I wanted to learn more how the unspeakable horror of the Rwanda genocide was allowed to happen. How it could have been stopped? Better yet, how could it have been prevented?

I was deeply shaken as I toured the museum that had been created to tell the story of the genocide. I had to sit down, not only because of to the enormity of the horror of what had occurred but because I had come face-to-face with my role in it! There was a display of the response from the international community to the steps to genocide. Or, more accurately, the lack thereof.

“My God”, I thought, “I was a Member of Congress when all of this was going on. I was on the Armed Services Committee and served as a member of the majority whip team whose job it was to “whip” up support from my colleagues to pressing issues and votes. Where the hell was I?”

The weight of this reflection continued as I came upon a wall of photos of victims, including many young children. Some were the age of my young son. Tears welled as I read of how they perished. How life went on here in Washington as usual while the march to mass murder systematically unfolded; how this could have been prevented; how these young lives could have been spared.

Almost three years later, the battle of prevention has been lost in places like Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria, where recent and ongoing atrocities have raised the same questions.

As the world marks that twentieth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, it is diverting its eyes yet again as men, women and children suffer and die not because of anything that they have done but because of who they are – their ethnicity and the god that they pray to.

The world is marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide with events, statements and speeches. President Obama released a statement today and there will no doubt be words marking this dark anniversary uttered on the floor of the U.S. House and Senate.

But, I have a better idea. Let’s act.

There are thousands of lives on the line right now – lives that are being extinguished because of bigotry, prejudice, hatred and cruelty. Lives that are being lost with the full awareness – and complicity – of government officials.

I just returned from Burma after a month-long fact-finding trip. Nowhere in the world are there more known precursors to genocide than in Burma today. Visiting camps in Burma where many thousands of Rohingya Muslims had been forced to live in, I was told repeatedly that their only hope was that the international community – particularly the United States – will do something to save them.

There are specific things that the U.S. government can do and what we all should do. You can begin by calling your Member of Congress and ask that they support HR 418 a Resolution urging the Government of Burma to end the persecution of the Rohingya people.

Or support other urgent actions including those on South Sudan, Sudan and Syria. In each of these raging conflicts the United States can and should do more.

Bobby Kennedy once told a group of young people from Soweto, South Africa:

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Let us mark the anniversary of the Rwanda genocide by heeding the words of Bobby Kennedy. But let’s not just make ripples to save the lives of innocent people under siege, let’s make waves!


Camp Darfur (c) Katy Raddatz, San Francisco Chronicle

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  • Iona

    Thank you, Tom, for your reminder to us: be aware of what is going on in the world and then care enough to act. We may have failed to act in the past but we can pray and work for peace now.

  • Gregory Mengell

    Yes we are. By turning our heads now we not only spattered with innocent blood but in the future our word will stand for nothing.Our children and grandchildren will hve this spattered blood drying on thier souls.God help us.Help us help them!

  • irvingwood

    A lot of bad info coming out now about the role of Paul Kagame in the atrocities in the Congo Basin. And Clinton knew about the genocide and could have stopped it but didn’t want to. Can you imagine that he didn’t know anything about it! Yeah Right! Spare a thought for poor Canadian General Romeo D’Allaire, who was let down by both the UN and the Belgians. Poor Africa doesn’t have a chance while the colonial powers still meddle in it’s affairs. The US, for one, should stop meddling in it’s affairs.

  • Tookle

    They aren’t ‘mistakes’. They are the Rothschild agenda directives from which they
    make money from both sides no matter who is fighting. It’s a win-win for them. Stop them and all this insanity will stop.

  • Jane Rampona

    Neither should we forget Burma’s genocide of the Karen people, who are “subjected to slave labor, systematic rape, the conscription of child soldiers, massacres and the deliberate destruction of villages, food sources and medical services.” (quotes from Wikipedia)

  • Sandra Zylberman

    We cannot seem to understand the damage done to
    our own morality by choosing to ignore genocide wherever it is taking place.

  • http://www.hotartglass.com don wreford

    Britain, France, Israel, America, would all be implicated in this act of what is virtually a genocide act, these countries have fear of Africa, in particular because of the history of the first world and Africa, as long as the forces of oppression can hold this continent down all the better.
    The grab of these 4 countries mentioned for resources is all part of this saga.
    Other than a passing mention such as in these blogs its all pretty irrelevant, what concerns most people is their own ego, to be satisfied having a good time and hedonism rules.

  • Tom

    Awareness to action to measurable progress toward a real vision and reality of better times and new starts for those who are suffering under genocides.

    THANK YOU for your information and voice for the voiceless and directed opportunities for us all to act.

    This is vital to the quality of life for all of us. If any people are suffering genocide, we are all suffering and we are “less than” as human beings, whether we recognize this or not.

    We also need more images and stories of successes in stopping genocide and of ending the mindsets that let it continue. This kind of improved world mindset needs to grow and spread until genocide is truly impossible and unthinkable. Water the good seeds and they will grow.

    We need to channel our anger, despair and outrage into effective support and change for those suffering.


  • Jacqueline

    The world can no longer turn a blind eye. This happened to the Jews in World War II, we went in to stop the Nazi’s from killing more people, we need to do the same here. God Bless the innocent!