Exploring a Past, One Distant, One Near, in Search of a Better Future

From the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme website, published in August 2011.

EIHR founders with conference participant, 2011.

EIHR founders with conference participant, 2011.

Thirty educators from secondary schools throughout Rwanda gathered from 31 July to 3 August 2011 at the Kigali Memorial Centre to learn how to help their students better understand the causes of genocide and how to foster a commitment to human rights following the 1994 genocide against the Hutus in Rwanda. 

Ernest Mutwarasibo from National University of Rwanda led a session on  the history of the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsi.

Ernest Mutwarasibo from National University of Rwanda led a session on  the history of the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsi.

Sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Federation of Teachers, and New York State United Teachers, the conference was organized by Andrew Beiter and Mark Gudgel co-Directors of The Educators' Institute for Human Rights, with local support from the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Centre.  During the three-day meeting, experts drew upon their knowledge of the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda to find ways to help students grasp the circumstances that can lead to genocide and why it is essential to remember the victims and survivors.  Local educators will now be better equipped to help children understand the human dimension of these tragedies and the importance of respecting one another.  In fostering a sense of responsibility and community in each of them, teachers will help to build human rights defenders, beginning in the classroom.

Kimberly Mann, Manager of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme  led a session entitled "Learning from Remembrance".

Kimberly Mann, Manager of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme 
led a session entitled "Learning from Remembrance".

Ernest Mutwarasibo from National University of Rwanda led a session on  the history of the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsi.

Kimberly Mann, manager of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, was among the speakers at the conference. She spoke about the role of remembrance in raising awareness to the dangers of hatred and prejudice, recognizing the worth and dignity of each individual and the issues that teachers should be sensitive to or avoid when commemorating these tragedies with students.  Among the other presenters were Peter J. Fredlake, Director, National Outreach for Teacher Initiatives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum;  Carl Wilkens, who shared his personal story of courage in helping to provide food and water to orphans in Rwanda when the killing began in 1994; Dr. Mark Mostert of Regent University, who described the Nazis’ euthanasia programme that targeted physically and mentally disabled persons; and Ernest Mutwarasibo of the National University of Rwanda, who gave an in-depth lecture about the history of the Rwandan Genocide.  Presenters also provided the educators with teaching materials to be used in their classrooms.

Kimberly Mann, Manager of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme 
led a session entitled "Learning from Remembrance".

Over 30 Rwandan teachers from all over the country attended the event.

Over 30 Rwandan teachers from all over the country attended the event.

Over 30 Rwandan teachers from all over the country attended the event.

The location of the conference, at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centrewas particularly symbolic.  The Memorial was opened in April 2004, on the 10th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, and is built on a site where over 250,000 people are buried. The Centre is a permanent memorial to victims of the genocide and serves as a place for people to grieve those they lost, co-founded by James Smith, Chief Executive of Aegis Trust, a genocide prevention organization.