A few years ago I was asked in a job interview: If you could talk to anyone living or dead, who would it be and why? A great question, but certainly not an easy one. Would it be one of the great humanitarians like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or perhaps Nelson Mandela? Perhaps it would be more religious or spiritual. Who wouldn’t want to talk to Jesus, Buddha, or the Dahlia Llama? Maybe some great business leaders or politicians, like a Winston Churchill, Warren Buffett or as a Manitoban the story of Louis Riel has always intrigued me. Today I think of individuals who have been witness to some of the darkest side of humanity like Anne Frank or Amanda Lindhout (A House in the Sky). It is strange as although Amanda Lindhout was a victim, kidnapped, tortured and sexually assaulted some blame her for what happened. Strange how often we look to find excuses for evil. In the end who to choose to talk to was not an easy question to answer because I am somewhat limited to my experiences so I am unaware of so many others that could provide new insights and perspectives in my understanding of our world and humanity.
On the day of the interview I chose Romeo Dallaire (Shake Hands with the Devil). A Canadian who was in charge of the United Nations Peace Keeping mission during the Genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. To read his book, to listen to his interviews gives us a glimpse into his humanity as well as his regrets for the Genocide in Rwanda. Some people have called him a hero which he does not accept. In truth, can there really be a hero when over 800 000 people were killed? He tried to tell the United Nations Security Council what was happening in Rwanda, in Africa, but they refused as did the world to act on his warnings. Dallaire considers this his failure. It is one of history’s many examples of how the lives of some people are worth more than the lives of others. There are some people who try to blame Dallaire, now a Canadian Senator, for his failing, the United Nations, the worlds failing in Rwanda. For me he was a voice for humanity, but no one would listen. No matter what we believe about Romeo Dallaire he is a living witness to the Genocide in Rwanda, but more importantly the inaction of the world during the 100 days that humanity was lost.
“If we don’t harness their potential for good, their societies will continue to reap their capacity for evil.” Roméo Dallaire
So as we look back at the atrocities of another Genocide, the United Nation’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at a ceremony, on April 7, 2014 held in the UNDP compound in Kigali to commemorate the UN staff members who lost their lives in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He also spoke of the shame of the United Nations and their inaction in helping a country when it needed the world to recognize the lives in Rwanda as are important as any life. A time when the world needed to put politics and economics aside and act on the side of humanity. In April 1994 we all were citizens of our communities and as I look back my voice was silent to the needs of one of our global communities.
There is always great debate in regards to the role of the United Nations, the role of Foreign Aide, the role each of us have as global citizens in interfering with the self-determination of other countries. These discussions result partially because we don’t always use Human Rights as the determining factor in our decisions on when to intervene. If we do use human rights as a criteria it may differ based on where the atrocities are occurring. Human Rights doesn’t seem to be the same for everyone. At times we seem to have a misguided belief that if we can keep our own family safe, we will be safe. We can lock our doors or go inside our gated communities and keep the rest of the world out.
The Secretary-General underlined that “there is a truth to the human condition that is as alarming today as it was 20 years ago; the fragility of our civility. The bonds that hold us together can swiftly disappear.”
Many of the issues of today where we create policies either political or economic that creates a greater divide between groups of people are risky. Through all the genocides of the past it begins with the propaganda stating the evils of the people who are being targeted. Be it the poor, immigrants or the young when we say things that lessens the value of one group against another, we dehumanize. We find a way to rationalize what we do or more importantly what we don’t do.
If we want a safe world, a world that doesn’t include atrocities like in Rwanda, or issues like child pornography, rape, crimes against the person, we will find ways to measure who we are as a society, a civilization, more importantly a global community by our actions on issues surrounding human rights rather than finding ways to simply believe that if I am safe, nothing else matters.