By Maddy Albert
The terror of the mass genocide in Rwanda cannot be put into words, but hearing the horror of the events firsthand from speaker Gilbert Sezirahiga, put the concept of a genocide in Rwanda into reality for the audience at BHS. Sezirahiga spoke firsthand of his time as a fourteen-year-old, watching his house being robbed and then burned down by his own neighbors motivated by their hatred for his social group, the Tutsi. The genocide in Rwanda was mainly caused by the violence between the Hutu and Tutsi groups. Sezirahiga spoke of the torture brought upon his group. The merciless mass murder occurred in many brutal ways, including holding women hostage and raping them, killing them slowly and by giving them HIV/AIDS. Sezirahiga managed to survive by hiding out in a church disguised as a woman, giving him more time to figure out a plan. He ended up escaping north with the help of his close Hutu classmate, who remained an exceptionally loyal figure to Sezirahiga in a sea of betrayal and disloyal Hutu friends. Sezirahiga returned years later to find 75 of his extended family members dead and his community altered forever.
Sezirahiga even spoke of similarities between the genocide in Rwanda and the Holocaust. Both were caused by discrimination against groups which led to violent mass murders. This makes Sezirahiga’s story even more poignant, seeing that the Holocaust is a familiar topic for most students; this comparison the true terror of the situation to the audience.
Genocides are undoubtedly unforgivable events, yet Sezirahiga’s closing remarks included that the way to move forward was to forgive the terrible events. “If you want peace, you create a new generation,” said Sezirahiga. In order to move past the horror of what happened in Rwanda, showing peace and starting new is what needs to occur. Sezirahiga feels it is his obligation to share his life-changing experience, knowing that if he didn’t tell his story, it would fade away in oblivion. By telling his story, Sezirahiga prevents such horrible events from happening again, keeps us in tune with foreign events and makes sure BHS students are not naive to the atrocities being committed throughout the world. These events are scarring to even think about, but by learning about them as we did from Gilbert Sezirahiga, we can learn to eliminate discrimination and promote peace in our own communities to create a better future for our generation.