Rwanda Commemoration Project: Genocide In Our Time
Below is a short list of programming ideas to commemorate this anniversary and share the lessons of the Rwanda genocide. It is our hope that your group will choose to organize one or more of the suggested programs, or use these ideas as a springboard for creating projects that make sense within your community. We encourage you to hold a combination of commemorative and substantive events in order to stress the idea that as we remember Rwanda, we must look to situations occurring in the world today and apply the lessons learned.
The following suggested activities are meant to be symbolic and will allow the community to reflect and express their feelings about the events in Rwanda in a serious and respectful manner. Each activity can be held on its own, or as part of a larger substantive program.
Plan a Candle Lighting/Memorial Ceremony - Organize a candlelight vigil to pay tribute to the victims of the Rwandan genocide. Invite a survivor, a poet, or an activist to speak. Ask noted community figures to lead the group in prayer or thoughtful words that reflect upon the nature of the anniversary. Read the names of the Genocide victims aloud. Offer an "open-mike" for people to share thoughts.
Coordinate a Moment of Silence - Coordinate a moment in the day when professors, students, staff and the entire community take a moment to reflect on the Genocide and remember its victims.
Hold a Series of Readings - Invite students, staff, faculty, survivors and community members to read poetry, essays, or stories in a central location in the school. The Center is compiling a list of appropriate readings. Please check back soon for list.
Organize a Flower/Card Collection - Invite members of your community to bring flowers and cards to a central location and then deliver them (or have them sent) to a local Rwandan consulate.
Create a Memorial - Invite students, faculty, staff and community members to display artwork, plant a tree, or dedicate a memorial (temporary or lasting) in a central location at your institution.
Sign a Condolence Book - Invite your community to write messages in a condolence book which can be sent to the Ambassador of Rwanda in your country. Ask that it be presented to the President and people of Rwanda.
Set up an Information Table - Set up a table in a central location at your institution with information about the Genocide. Other commemorative activities (such as a flower/card collection or a condolence book available for signatures) can be available at the information table. Having such a table at a central location will also help to promote other activities which your group may plan for the commemoration (such as speakers, films or other activities).
The following are suggestions for ways to engage your community in substantive conversation about the cause of genocide, its effects on Rwanda and the world, and the need to actively prevent genocides looming in the world today.
Integrate the Anniversary into the Classroom - Plan a lesson around the events of the Genocide. Review analyses of how the Genocide happened and what can be done to prevent future genocides. Encourage students to become active in a commemorative project.
Show a Film - Film can be a powerful way to introduce the subject of the Genocide. Show a film early in the day to encourage people to participate in other commemorative events. Invite a speaker to talk about the Genocide after the film is shown, or organize an "open-mike" opportunity for viewers to share their reactions to the events they have just seen. A list of films is available on the Resource List.
Organize a Panel Discussion - Invite professors, activists or community leaders who have studied the Rwandan genocide to talk with your community about the event. If possible, invite a survivor of the Genocide in your area or a representative from the Rwandan Consulate or Embassy to speak. (Indiana and Michigan have the largest Rwandan populations in the U.S., according to the Rwandan Embassy). See list suggestions for discussion topics.
Organize Action Workshops - Create one (or a series) of workshops to teach participants about the Genocide and work together to come up with creative ideas and proposals for preventing future genocides. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's website has a variety of resources about genocide for educators (see www.ushmm.org). Encourage workshop participants come up with an Action Plan for preventing future genocides. Send this Action Plan to local community groups, the media, and elected officials.
Plan a Reading Group - Organize a group to discuss readings about the Genocide. Distribute readings in advance and identify an educator or group leader to facilitate the discussion. Consider holding the reading group weekly for several weeks leading up to April 7. See list reading list for suggestions.
Hold a Writing or Drawing Competition - Put out a call for essays on a particular subject related to the Genocide. Topics should be selected based on their suitability for the age group of the students involved. Possible subjects include "From the Holocaust to Rwanda, Have We Learned our Lessons?," "Can There Be True Reconciliation After Genocide?" or "What is the International Community's Responsibility for Preventing Genocide?" You could also use a quotation from a poet, activist or scholar as a prompt and ask for reactions in light of the experience of the Genocide. Provide a forum to publish the winning essays or drawings, such as a newsletter, website, periodical or local newspaper.
Host a Photo Exhibit/Display - Classes or community groups can create exhibits with photos, stories and drawings about the Rwandan genocide. Alternatively, there are a variety of traveling photo exhibits about the Genocide available for display. Host the exhibit at a central location and invite the public. Organize a panel discussion or commemorative event around the exhibit. Invite students to write short essays about their reactions to the photos as a class project, or encourage the public to share their reflections in a book kept with the display.
Raise Money to Support Survivors and Programs to Heal Victims - There are a variety of charities that aid survivors of the Genocide. Your group can raise money to donate to such organizations.
Conduct a Letter Writing Campaign to the United Nations - On January 26, 2004, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called for the establishment of a UN Committee on Preventing Genocide and the nomination of a Special Rapporteur who would monitor "massive and systematic violations of human rights and threats to international peace and security." Encourage your community to write letters urging world leaders to support and adopt the Secretary General's proposal. See sample letter.
Outreach to the Community
In planning events around the tenth anniversary, try to involve not only your own community, but also other groups who may be interested in helping to commemorate the Genocide. Planning events to commemorate the Genocide is a great opportunity to forge coalitions. The following is a list of suggestions for getting others involved.
Build Coalitions To Promote Events - Meet with other community groups and ask them to co-sponsor commemorative events. By building coalitions and soliciting co-sponsors, more people will be encouraged to attend and become involved in your events. This will help build consciousness about your initiatives and will create an opportunity to forge relationships with others in your area concerned with similar issues.
Involve the University Community and Student Groups - Work with faculty, deans and school administrators to create meaningful events. Use professors as resources for panels and discussions. Extend events into classroom discussions. Also, be sure to take advantage of the time and energy of student groups. Encourage student groups to organize events or co-sponsor.
Work With Local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) - Work with NGOs such as local sections of Amnesty International, churches, mosques, synagogues and other community groups to organize events and to use their networks to encourage greater participation in your events.
Involve the Rwandan Community - There are thousands of Rwandans who live in the United States and Canada. If there is a community of Rwandans in your area, invite them to take part in your events.
Invite Communities of Survivors - Unfortunately, there are a variety of communities of survivors of genocide and mass atrocity in our midst today. In addition to the events in Rwanda, there are survivors of the ethnic cleansing campaigns in Bosnia of the 1990s, the Killing Fields of Cambodia of the 1970s, and the Holocaust of World War II. Invite and involve survivors in your commemoration events.
Publicize Your Events Widely - Be sure to publicize your events widely. Make local media aware of the events you are organizing by sending out press releases and making follow-up press calls. In addition, post notices of your events on electronic listserves and websites. Students and volunteers can help create a list of media contacts and place press calls. "See sample press release.