RWANDAN GENOCIDE SURVIVOR SPEAKS AT BISHOP GUERTIN
Bishop Guertin students and faculty members from several classes; especially those from the Banality of Evil classes were privileged to listen to Rwandan genocide survivor, Ernest Rugwizangoga on November 16th.
Ernest was born in 1975 in a small Rwandan town called Kamonyi, 10 miles outside of the capital of Kigali. He was part of a family of eight children and belonged to the minority group known as Tutsis. Ernest attended Catholic elementary and high school and was on his spring break when the genocide by extremist Hutus began by targeting all Tutsis for death in 1994.
Listeners were captivated by Ernest’s detailed accounts of how his once very peaceful existence turned in to complete chaos at the hands of the killers. Through a series of unbelievable events, he was able to escape death with the help of Tutsis rebels and reached what was supposed to be a safe haven encampment. Shortly after reaching there however, he learned that the camp was really an excuse by the killers to concentrate Tutsis for elimination. Miraculously, Ernest escaped death once again by finding a hiding place for three months until it was safe. Unfortunately, he lost two brothers and a sister in the genocide.
Ernest came to Boston in 1997 and is currently working with various public schools in helping troubled youth, in addition to his speaking engagements.
Reflections from BG Students:
"When I sat down in the audio visual room and saw Ernest, I was taken aback by how much he resembled everyone else in the room who was not a survivor. It was not until that point that I realized that in my mind, I had made Ernest different. He was, in reality, very similar to everyone in that room including myself... What surprised me the most was his manner. He was humorous, joyful, and noticeably kind. This made the genocide so much worse. Because of Ernest's inviting nature, I identified with him. When he talked about the horrors he witnessed in the 1990's in Rwanda, I felt a powerful sadness." Thomas Reilly
"Ernest is a stronger man than most that I know. I cannot say with any degree of certainty that I would be able to experience such horrors as he faced and be able to speak to others about it, constantly reliving the tragedy that nearly shattered my faith in the goodness of humanity. Because it was not merely a handful of radicals killing Tutsis, it was everyone. Friends and neighbors that Ernest had known his entire life had suddenly become people he could no longer trust, simply because the government convinced the Hutus that Tutsis were evil people and needed to be eradicated." Ryan Cardinal
"His experience not only made people more aware of went on in Rwanda, but I think people have become more aware of injustices that are occurring presently. It was moving to see someone who survived genocide and was still able to continue through life positively and progressively. I think it forced people to focus on a more global picture." Caity Sullivan
"I don't know if an explanation can ever really be given. There are so many terrible aspects of the human psyche that seem incomprehensible. But my hope is that in the past years you (Ernest) have found some relief in the good aspects of the human spirit. I hope that you have begun and will continue to heal in the wake of this human tragedy. The human spirit is resilient and strong and I can think of no one that exemplifies this better than yourself. Thank you for coming to share your life story."