Liveblog: Carl Wilkens talks with Paly students about Rwandan genocide
by Jared Schwartz and Levi Schoeben
Published March 5, 2013
Wilkens closes his talk.
Trust played a huge role in the genocide and continues to in Rwanda to this day, according to Wilkens.
Anita survived living with Wilkens in his house, and married a Hutu after the genocide. “Labels don’t always have the last word,” Wilkens repeats.
“We can never underestimate the power of fear and greed,” Wilkens said.
Wilkens briefly explains why the genocide occurred . The struggle was mostly among the people at the top at first. “Genocide is not spontaneous,” Wilkens said. Not all tutsis and hutus hated each other; many of them were married. Extremists who were fearful of losing power pitted one side against another. “Genocides are politically driven,” Wilkens emphasizes.
“The sense of danger from the first day, the sound of gun shots, you just wanted to get your family out of there,” Wilkens said.
“The government was constructing an enemy, people knew who were being discriminated against,” Wilkens said. He then adds how the government was killing Tutees before, but we just didn’t hear about it.
“Sometimes the most important thing is not what you say, but showing up, being there, presence,” Wilkens said referring to when he met with the Prime Minister of Rwanda.
Wilkens said the main reason he stayed was to protect his children’s teacher, Anita. He and his wife decided together that they couldn’t leave her to die.
“If [a religion's] main belief is connecting with their creator and with their neighbor then I think they [those who practice such a religion] are on the right track,” Wilken said.
“Input – think — feel — act,” Wilken writes on the screen, talking about what one single input can lead to. “I can make a difference in this kids life – absolutely ,” Wilken said.
“These little acts of kindness became huge on that night,” Wilkens said, referring to the actions of women in his neighborhood when the genocide began.
“Our kids had been playing around the neighborhood for four years,” Wilkens said. “It’s harder to leave than to stay,” he added, quoting his friend Heri, who protected children during the genocide.
Wilkens and his wife had three children who grew up in Africa. “We felt Africa was a great place to raise children,” Wilkens said.
Wilkens tells the story of a baby he helped to rescue. He recently met her again after she graduated at the top of her high school class.
People did not only die from machete wounds, according to Wilkens. Many children died of diarrhea due to the lack of water. “No one should die from not having water, water is such a simple thing to have,” Wilkens said.
Walkens shows one more video before going into his talk on Rwanda genocide. The video features his motorcycle ride through a town in Rwanda. “There are people who survive the holocaust and their are people who become alive after it,” Walken said, addressing people going through hardship.
“This [the dance program] allows kids to be kids, because, you know how the streets can ruin kids,” Walkens said.
Walkens shows a quick video about a friend of his who runs a dance program in countries like Bosnia and Rwanda. “Where your pation and where your greatest needs intersect, thats where you need to be,” Walkens said, addressing the dance classes.
Walkens adresses that life was fairly normal before the genocide in Rwanda. “If I find a funny video or make a joke, it may be a coping method forme,” Wilken said.
Wilken brings up the Isreal-Loves-Iran facebook page and shares it on his personal Facebook timeline.
Wilkens shows a photo of several gorillas and asks what we think one of the gorillas is thinking. On student responds, “I love you,” and Wilken gets sidetracked over a video about Iranian and Israel real human to human relations, seen here
“Labels don’t always have the final word,” Wilkens said, taking it down in his notes.
Wilkens emphasizes that Rwanda is not only a land of genocide.
Carl Wilkens has begun speaking to a full room of Paly students in the SSRC.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting on stories.