On my way to Thailand to do the Rotary Peace Fellowship, I stopped over in The Hague to help facilitate a conference for work, “International Decision-Making in the Age of Genocide: Rwanda 1990-1994.” I’m so (mentally, emotionally, physically) tired I don’t have a lot of energy to really explain it, but you can read about the why, what, how, who of it here. [We also just today posted a bunch of documents here.]
I wanted to take a moment to share some of my reflections and photography. It’s a bit if a stretch to make it entirely relevant to my other postings on EmaBee’s Art, but hey, life is not all neat and pretty all the time, so please forgive my lack of cohesion other than some (hopefully) thoughtful prose and colorful photographs of The Hague…
(written 2 June 14)
I am sitting in a meeting room in The Hague, preparing for the start of our conference “International Decision-Making in the Age of Genocide: Rwanda 1990-1994,” with 35 individuals and officials that witnessed the horror 20 years ago – from the UK, UN, US, France, Rwanda, Nigeria, Czech Republic, Canada, Tanzania, New Zealand. My heart is heavy with despair with the news of the resolution just passed in the Guatemalan congress to deny genocide and pardon the state. I am holding the people of Guatemala close to my heart and hoping for peace.
At the same time, I am overwhelmed with emotion because all of these former officials have graciously agreed to sit in a room together and revisit the painful past with the hope of learning more so we can prevent future genocide. I am viscerally aware of the depth of suffering caused by violence like this. It may be cliché to say that we only begin to understand the depth of suffering through individual stories, but I have to say it is different to read a memoir someone wrote about their experiences, and to actually sit at the breakfast table with them and their colleagues with whom they suffered. To hear them recall the small day-to-day moments, to see them interact, their body language, facial expressions, pouring coffee… to get a glimpse the multiple layers of suffering.The individual stories and depth of suffering are one of millions. This is why we do this work – never again.
I am so deeply humbled to be a here and be a part of this.
(written 2 June 14)
Reflection after long day of intense discussions, and after a lovely dinner with Iqbal Riza (former head of UN DPKO) and Colin Keating (former UN Amb from New Zealand – and pres. of UNSC):
In the end we are all human. We all have hopes and dreams, loves, disappointments, pain and joy. I can spend 1.5 years reading documents about Rwanda, reading books, and nothing can prepare you for actually sitting down to the dinner table and talk to the witnesses about what it was like to be a part of it all. For them to see me as a young professional/scholar worth engaging with whom to share personal stories.
Amb. Keating said that one of the most important lessons learned from his experience is the importance of using one’s “resources of moral courage” in difficult times.
I deeply respect Mr. Riza’s willingness to delve into uncomfortable areas, commitment to better understand our collective history, seeking the truth, and learning from past mistakes.