As one of its annual events, the Rowan Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies partnered with the Hollybush Institute, Chabad and Africana Studies to host the annual Paul B. Winkler lecture on Oct. 16, which featured Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire. Dallaire spoke on his experience during the Rwandan Genocide in commemoration of its 25th anniversary.
Dallaire had a charismatic presence when speaking about such a horrific topic. However, the lecture was not based on what the lieutenant general endured during his time in Rwanda. Dallaire spoke directly to the audience to declare that human rights is a huge issue and that something needs to be done about it. He spoke about the influence of the younger generation and how much power we have.
With the instantaneous world that we live in, Dallaire noted that the “under-25 generation is a very influential group. The world is in your grasp. It wasn’t in ours.”
Speaking of his time in Rwanda, Dallaire did not elaborate on the grotesque human rights violations he witnessed. Instead, he noted that he came across a young Rwandan boy who was extremely malnourished and saw his living conditions amongst the atrocity that surrounded him. He noted that once he looked into the boy’s eyes, all he could see were the eyes of his young son.
The comparison made audience members realize that these children who have been subjected to mass atrocities are extremely innocent. Children should not be victims of war. This was one of the main points Dallaire articulated to the audience; this belief is why he has devoted most of his career to the protection of children and innocent victims of human rights violations in areas where war is present, such as through the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.
After the lecture, a question-and-answer session ensued in which members of the audience asked thoughtful questions as to what we as a society can do to minimize the chance of another genocide and what Dallaire’s opinion on the future truly is. A book signing of Dallaire’s award-winning and eye-opening biography, “Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda,” followed.
While Dallaire witnessed what no human being should experience, his message rings true for every individual. Everyone is deserving of life and it is our responsibility as human beings to look out for one another because our time is limited on this Earth.
As Dallaire stated, “Your future is in your fate. If you don’t take advantage of it, you are responsible for what happens.”
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