Sunday, April 09, 2006

Rwanda Remembrance Day at the UN

I was at the UN headquarters in NY yesterday for an event commemorating the 12th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.

First of all, I hadn't been to the UN for about a year now and I wasn't sure how I felt about going to a Rwandan genocide commemoration there- I guess that shows my cynical and unforgiving side. But when I stepped inside, finding my way around the different conference rooms was like riding the proverbial bike: it all came back to me suddenly why it was such an important institution. And I felt something I never thought I would ever feel- nostalgia (for the many days I spent at the UN as an intern during my college years). In the cafe where I waited, the air was electric- one could tangibly feel the energy- as people from both sexes, all races, all religions, all countries sat huddled at coffee tables in groups of 2, 3 or 4 discussing the most important issues facing humanity today.

The commemoration itself lasted about 2 hours and the theme was "Healing the Past to Provide Hope for the Future". There were many Rwandans in the audience as well as NGO and UN reps. The speakers list included the ED of We, the World, a representative from the Rwandan permanent mission to the UN, the Secretary-General of World Culture Open, the ED of Itafari, the ED of Women Beyond Survival, Imaculee Ilibagiza - a genocide survivor who just published "Left to Tell"- and a Holocaust survivor. Jean Paul Samputu's singing, dancing and drumming troupe also gave 2 performances.

The event was emotionally exhausting to sit through- but I told myself that it was the least I could do to just listen to those who had something to say on the day commemorating the commencement of an event that would leave an indelible mark on human history.