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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sometimes in April is Something to Remember

I watched Sometimes in April, a movie that focuses on the desperate and tragic story of a Hutu-Tutsi family in Rwanda when the ethnic genocide broke out in April, 1994. What the film indicates is that terrible events don’t emerge overnight. In this case, the seeds were sown by colonialists who divided to conquer, as well as by the subsequent waves of ethnic discrimination. So too, as the genocide unfolded, cascading to the murder of nearly a million people, the world stood aside, because of the lack of strategic interest present in Rwanda, and because stopping the violence once it was unleashed required more than political statements or diplomatic pressure.

From a leadership perspective, the situation was enormously complex and difficult. No one was able to initiate, orchestrate, or stop the killings. The family in the film is well educated, affluent, and has connections to the military supporting the killings, as well as the movement that is enacting the violence. But all this proves insufficient to ensure their safety.

The film suggests that the time to act is before the time of war and killings start. We can act to increase social equity, to reduce poverty, stimulate economic growth, to improve education, to build civil society, and establish international networks that can act swiftly when needed. And who must do this? We all must.

The film opens with an eloquent quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Action and inaction are both choices that are ours to make.

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