Rwandan Genocide a Lesson in Forgiveness

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    Morris Catholic High School: A lesson in Forgiveness.

    Today, I had the privilege to witness Marie Claudine Mukamabano giveher Never Again, the need for Forgiveness speech. The event took place as

    part of the Global Initiative at Morris Catholic High School in Morris County,New Jersey. I met Ms. Mukamabano and one of her Public RelationsAssistants, Ms. Titilayo Kazeem at 7am at Penn Station in New York City. Wemade the trip together for the event that was to take place at 9:30 am.

    Dr. Gradone, the schools Principal, met us at the Denville TrainStation. After the small talk we began discussing what Ms. Mukamabanowould need for her presentation. While we were served a nice complimentarybreakfast we had the opportunity to speak with two representatives of the

    Catholic Relief Services and how important the Global Initiatives of the HighSchool was to making students aware of their global environments. While weall went to the gymnasium where the presentation was taking place, Ms.Mukamabano met with the four high school students she was going to dressin traditional Rwandan attire for the event.

    Dr. Gradone introduced Ms. Mukamabano in front of the entirestudent body. Ms. Mukamabano started her presentation withacknowledgments and went on to speak about her life in Rwanda. She spokeabout her family life and childhood in her native country and gave theaudience a sense of how ordinary life in Rwanda was before the Genocide of1994. She then shared her heartbreaking experience during the Genocideand how much she was directly impacted by the tragedy. You could hear thegasps of horror and compassion from the audience when she told of howalmost her entire family was murdered and she is left today with only abrother and a sister.

    Ms. Mukamabano did a great job of keeping the audience enthralled byincorporating them into her presentation. She asked several questions thatthe students were more than willing to answer. While she was discussing theimportance of keeping your dream, of making your dream come true sheasked some of the students what their dreams were. Most of them yelledout their diverse answers ranging from I want to be a rock start! to Iwould like to be a doctor! She told her audience how important it was tofocus on their dream and not let themselves be led astray.

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    Another interesting part of the event was when she using herexperience to explain was explaining the importance of forgiveness in ourlives today. She elaborated on how it is crucial to be able to forgive because

    without that we would not be able to go on. We would be stuck in the past,filled with bitterness, anger and thoughts of revenge, stopping us fromadvancing in our lives. She told of how she has forgiven those that killed herfamily because without that she would not have been able to go on and honorher mothers memory. Ms. Mukamabano made all the students get up and singabout peace and how without peace there is no life for anyone. It was quiteinspiring to see how much the students got involved in the singing.

    Ms. Mukamabano spoke of her non-profit organization, the Kuki Ndiho

    Foundation that strives to help the one million Rwandan orphans of theRwandan Genocide. Her foundation also provides help towards the fightagainst HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. She showed several pictures of the orphans intheir daily lives. She enumerated the many ways to help the orphans inRwanda with a monetary contribution, no matter how small it is, it adds up,she said. She encouraged the audience to log on to the foundations websiteor Facebook page to get more information. At the end of her presentation,Ms. Mukamabano answered several questions from the students. A few arelisted below.

    Q: How did you survive the Genocide?A: I think that it was a miracle that I am alive today. I was almost

    killed at a road stop by the Interahamwe but was saved by a group of Hutufriends that believed that me and my mother were also Hutu because we hadfake Hutu ID cards.

    Q: How did your mother die?A: With tears and emotion evident in her face, Ms. Mukamabano

    answered: I am sorry but some of the trauma that I went through are stilltoo hard for me to talk about. This is one of them

    Q: When was the last time you went to Rwanda?A: 2005

    Q: Are you afraid they will kill you when you go back to Rwanda?A: NO, the Genocide ended over 15 years ago

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    Q: why did genocide happen in Rwanda?A: because the Hutu, the majority of the population acted on hatred

    for the Tutsi. They had many ignoble names for us, such as cockroaches and

    wanted to kill us all

    Q: How can we help the orphans today?A: there are many ways to help. If you can spare $5, $10, $20 that

    can send a child to school. You can also volunteer your time like an internfrom City College just did last summer. She went to help teach English tothe kids in Rwanda. You can also participate in a pen pal program so you canwrite to the kids to let them know they are not alone

    The presentation ended with a standing ovation from all the studentsand one of the teachers came onto the stage to put the Rwandan flag ontheir Global Initiatives tableau project. As principal Dr. Gradone told usafter the presentation, the last time my students were that happy and gavea standing ovation was when they were told they would have two days ofvacation so you need to know that they liked you very, very much. You made abig impact on them! Students surrounded Ms. Mukamabano immediatelyafter the event. Some just wanted to say how much they appreciated herspeech. Other wanted to know how to contact her because they wanted tohelp the Orphans of Rwanda.

    It was easy to see how impressed students were by the presentation.The four that were traditionally dressed and participated in the speechwere actually reluctant to give the attires back because they liked themvery much. Ms. Mukamabano was also quite impressed and happy by theattention she was getting towards her Foundation but for her, it came downto knowing she personally impacted her audience. She asked everyone thatcame up to her one question Which part of my presentation did you like themost? overwhelmingly, the answer was the personal emotional parts of herown life that she shared. It helped students realize how much they had incommon with people that were from other countries.

    As an observer and member of her audience, it was obvious to see theimpact Ms. Mukamabano has when she speaks. Through her speech, shemakes you realize that peace is primordial in our everyday lives. Forgiveness

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    is key to leading our lives and it is so important to forgive those that havedone you wrong. For students that go through petty fights in school, and letthemselves get resentful and angry with their aggressor and becomeaggressors themselves, there is a need for them to understand that

    forgiveness is the key to breaking this cycle. Our schools in America aregreatly affected by bullies and violence they bring into schools. There is alot of talk of how to stop this violence. After watching the positive impactof Marie Claudine Mukamabanos, I have to say that one of the bestdecisions a principal could make for their school is to have such aninspirational speaker that is willing to use her personal experience to inspireforgiveness and peace in others. As for us, we can certainly incorporate herlesson in our daily lives by being aware of our world. We can certainly try todo something about other violent situations in the worlds such as the

    Genocide in Darfur, Sudan happening today.

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