At the occasion of the 20th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsis, a group of 6 young Rwandans took off the task of sharing their stories with the world.
these young Rwandans shared with their audiences the pain, confusion and frustrations of being born in a society that was ravaged by genocide. Through stories of pain and sorrow,
These young Rwandans however, shared their hope in a renewed Rwanda and their hope in
the power of “engaging the other”. Through these visits these young Rwandans used stories, dances, and public debates to let their American counterparts know of the dangers of NOT engaging with each other.
“Iyo umenya nawe ukimenya, ntuba waranyishe” “If you’d known me and known yourself, you wouldn’t have killed me.” ~Genocide victim
American students learn about genocide in their history books, from the media or from popular culture. We believe that the tour represents a great opportunity for the American students to learn first hands from those who have been impacted by Genocide. Although majority of our students were not born or were too young during the genocide, many have experienced the heartaches of loss of family and heritage. Through personal narratives, the participants of the tour share about the pain, frustration of having to rebuild a society torn by the evil of Genocide.
“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate” ~Martin Luther King
The tour also aims at raising awareness about the importance of civil discourse. As a post genocide generation, we believe that it is important to learn how to communicate with people that we disagree. This belief was shaped by our legacy of violence and experiencing the negative impact of polarization and extremism. With violent protests happening on different campuses and the deepening of ideological differences, we hope to use the history of Rwanda as an illustration of what happens when we refuse to engage with those who disagree with us and when we eliminate differences instead of celebrating them.
While Rwanda and the USA are thousands of Kilometers away from each other, we believe that the tour represents a great way for a cross-cultural experience between our students. In the media, Africa is often described as a place of hopelessness, darkness and poverty but through the tour, we show students a different side of the continent. Through this tour, we hope that student will learn how to be more empathetic and understanding of people from different cultures and embrace tolerance and acceptance.
While on the tour, the iDebate team engages in public debates with our hosting university. The debates are public events that bring together on average 100-300 students to engage in a critical discussion of current issues. In the past 5 years, the debate topics have all being around issues surrounding Genocide, atrocities, hate speech and the need for convicted civility.
During the class, our team discusses Rwanda as a case study depending on the subject of the class. University students get to ask different questions that they might have on Rwanda.
In the past 5 years, we have spoken in Communication classes, Political Science Classes, International Relations classes and anthropology classes.
In all the universities that we visit, it’s their first time to have visitors from Rwanda. This becomes a great opportunity for us to share with them some aspects of our culture. On a normal visit, we teach the students how to dance Kinyarwanda songs, how to say some basic words in Kinyarwanda and also share about the different cultural events in Rwanda.