The Magazine of Marquette University | Summer 2006

 

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Lessons of Hotel Rwanda

By Robin Graham

“In Rwanda, one million people were killed in 100 days - 15 percent of Rwanda's population. The international community looks at the killing fields in Africa and does nothing. They pretend they are willing to see, but take no action.”

— Paul Rusesabagina

Facts about Rwanda
Human Rights Watch Report:
  Genocide in Rwanda
 
Multimedia
Hotel Rwanda Official Film Site
PBS Frontline: Ghosts of Rwanda

 

The celebration of Mission Week at Marquette invites students, faculty and staff to reflect and reconnect with the university’s mission of educating students not just academically but also intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. In the past, Mission Week welcomed such notable keynote speakers as Martin Luther King III, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Lech Walesa and Arun Gandhi.

This year's keynote speaker was Paul Rusesabagina, subject of the film Hotel Rwanda, who saved more than 1,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus — including his wife and children — from being murdered by Hutu extremists during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Rusesabagina passionately detailed his experience to an overflow crowd of students, faculty, staff and community members, and talked about the imperative need to prevent genocide.

“In Rwanda, one million people were killed in 100 days — 15 percent of Rwanda's population,” said Rusesabagina. “The international community looks at the killing fields in Africa and does nothing. They pretend they are willing to see, but take no action.”

Despite what others have described as tremendous courage, Rusesabagina sees himself as just a man with a duty and an obligation to do what he did.

"I did not have any special courage,” he said. “I would have felt courage if I had taken a gun and shot the rebels. But I am an ordinary man. I don't feel like I did anything special.”

In keeping with the Mission Week theme, Rusesabagina implored the audience to take action against human rights violations around the world as well as in Africa.

“Four million have been killed in Congo; no one noticed. Six million killed in Burundi; nobody talks about it. The same thing is happening now in Darfur [western region of Sudan],” he said. “To you future leaders I say, there are so many voices calling out for help. Hotel Rwanda has a good message. We need you to keep raising awareness, to rise up as one. Then we'll always win.”

The purpose of Mission Week is two-fold: to link faith and service and to give everyone at Marquette a time for reflecting — key elements of Jesuit education, according to Stephanie Russell, executive director of university mission and identity.

“Mission Week leads people to ask deeper questions not only about the university's mission, but about their own sense of faith and service — to ask what is it about a Marquette education that calls all of us forward to serve the world more authentically,” says Russell. “This actually happens throughout the academic year in classrooms, retreats, and co-curricular and ministry activities. But Mission Week gives us time for reflection on what we're doing and why we're doing it.”

Mission Week events took place all around campus. In addition to daily reflections, there were retreats, dramatic readings, guest speakers and exhibits.

One event, Loyola Lunches, gave the university community a chance to brown bag it with some Jesuits and chat on a range of topics. During another, Destination Dinners, students heard from peers who have traveled to Africa and Latin America. The guest speaker at a Soup with Substance lunch was a Marquette student from Africa who shared his experiences in pre- and post-apartheid South Africa.

In support of the right to education, school supplies were collected for Milwaukee's homeless children.

Faculty and graduate students participated in Faculty Commons and discussed topics including mentoring, global awareness and spirituality in the workplace.

Another highlight was an outdoor stations of the cross, in which participants made a metaphoric pilgrimage through the scenes of Christ's suffering and death, as related to specific places and human rights violations throughout the world.

Matt Manning, a senior majoring in international affairs, attended Rusesabagina's address. “Putting a face to what I saw portrayed on screen was especially inspiring,” he says. “I wondered, could that type of courage be revealed in me?”

Lizzie Norris, a senior exercise science major in Marquette's physical therapy program, celebrated her third Mission Week by attending the opening Mass and a Destination Dinner in addition to Rusesabagina's address. “Mission Week gives me a time to evaluate where I want to go, what my motivation is, and to go where I'm called,” she says. “It's what sets Marquette apart.”

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