Deacon to relate effects of Rwandan genocide   


Gary Long saw firsthand the effects of genocide the citizens of Rwanda are still coping with.

The St. Mary parish deacon visited the country last year as part of his work with Catholic Relief Services.

"I saw graves of hundreds of thousands of people. I saw mummified remains of people who were slain on the order of 40 to 50 thousand in one place," Long said. "And I saw what's being done now to overcome this."

Long will be relating what he learned Sunday, Sept. 14, in the first of a three-part series on genocide hosted by the Indian Trails Public Library, with the help of the Northwest Suburban Interfaith Council.

The series will attempt to discuss the causes of genocide by going over first-person accounts from three periods of recent history: Rwanda, the Holocaust and Darfur.

"Even in this world today, years after the Holocaust, it's still happening and it's still going on," Long said. "We've got to be aware of these things."

The situation in Rwanda manifested itself in 1994, when hundreds of thousands of the minority Tutsis were slain in about 100 days. The genocide was the result of an ethnic clash that had been building over the years between the Hutus and Tutsis.

Long said there were clear signs that led to the atrocity, which he will be discussing.

He said the Hutus and Tutsis all were given ID cards under Belgian rule in the 1900s to denote which group they belonged in.

"The Hutus were given menial jobs. The Tutsi were treated as an elite," he said.

Long saw the destruction the genocide has left in the country but also saw the way its citizens were trying to rebuild.

"It's a very interesting court system," he said. "It was really an unbelievable way to deal with reconciliation."

One of the judges Long met, for example, was a woman whose husband, children and parents were murdered by their neighbors. Long said she subscribed to the belief that those who showed remorse should be shown some clemency under the court so that the country could rebuild.

"She truly had come to a point where she was able to understand what had to be done," he said.

Long visited several sites while in Rwanda, including a cemetery that held 50,000 bodies of the genocide and a school where children were murdered because they refused to identify themselves as either Hutu or Tutsi.

He also visited a school where citizens were promised protection by the army but were murdered as soon as they assembled.

"We met the two known survivors of the massacre," Long said. "They have a hard time leaving the place."

Long said he wants to discuss what he learned while in Rwanda so that people can be made aware of what can happen and try to prevent another instance of genocide happening again.

Long's discussion will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14, at the library, 355 S. Schoenbeck Road, Wheeling. For more information, call the library at (847) 459-4100 or visit www.indiantrailslibrary.org.

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