22 Sep 2005

Paul Rusesabagina

On Monday, I was able to attend a speech by Paul Rusesabagina, whose life was dramatized in the recent movie Hotel Rwanda.

Mr. Rusesabagina was a lively speaker with a very strong message and an incredible life story. For those of you who have not seen the movie, which I would recommend, he was a hotel manager living in Rwanda at the outbreak of genocide in April 1994. He managed to keep his family and 1200 other Rwandans alive in his hotel for several months while the international community abandoned them. His story is inspiring and rare.
It is the kind of story that causes you to wonder how you would act in that situation. Would you let people into your home to save them from murderers, even though it put your own family at risk? Would you stay behind to face incredible danger when given an opportunity to leave, because if you left, you knew that over 1000 men, women and children would certainly be slaughtered? How would you react to someone asking you to please tell them when the soldiers were close, so that they could have time to bring their families to the roof and jump off for an easier death? If a man handed you a machete and pointed a gun at you – would you kill another?
These are questions that Paul faced and he acted with incredible heroism and courage. These are situations that others face in the Sudan and elsewhere in the world now, and if history is any indication, will continue to happen long into the future. This burden is ours to confront as a society, to face as a world community. Pauls example is heart breaking in that it is so very rare. Most would not resist and risk themselves, but would give in, participate, and give excuses after.
Paul has started the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation to help women and children affected by the genocides of several African nations, including the Sudan. He will be coming out with a book called “An Ordinary Man” next year, I will try to link to it when it goes on sale.
If you would like to learn more about the Rwandan genocide, some books I would recommend would be We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, Shake Hands with the Devil by Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, or one that I'm currently reading, A Problem from Hell by Samantha Power.
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