Monday night, the Shoah Foundation Institute Student Association hosted a vigil in the University Religious Center in honor of the 20th anniversary of the day the Rwandan genocide began.
The Rwandan genocide occurred over a span of approximately 100 days, from April to July, 1994; it was a mass killing of the minority Tutsis by the majority Hutus. The death estimates range from 500,000 to 1,000,000.
The vigil included a survivor testimony, a poetry reading, a traditional Rwandan dance ceremony and a piano-violin duet written by Ambrose Soehn after a trip to Rwanda in the summer of 2013. This will be the third event hosted by USC Genocide Awareness Month, which will continue throughout April.
To open the vigil, members of SFISA read testimonies from survivors of the genocide. One testimony came from Edouard Bamporiki, a young boy at the time of the genocide, whose family was part of the Hutu tribe.
“[The older Hutus] said, ‘If you want to be rich, come, kill, you will benefit from your work.’ I asked myself, ‘Was it true? Was the way to get rich to kill people and take their property?’” Bamporiki said in his testimony.
As an empathy exercise, SFISA handed out pictures of the 1 million who lost their lives during 100 days of genocide in 1994.
The vigil was entitled “Remember, Unite, Renew,” after the slogan of Kwibuka20, a series of global and national events launched by Rwanda for the 20th anniversary of the genocide. In Kinyarwanda, the word ‘kwibuka’ means ‘to remember.’ Not only did attendees remember the past, but they also celebrated the promising future in store for Rwanda.
Nora Snyder, president of SFISA, visited Rwanda with fellow students in the summer of 2013 and said the African country was nothing like it was during times of mass murder.
“When all of us got there, we were pretty blown away by Rwanda and how far the country has come,” Snyder said. “When people [in America] think of Rwanda, generally all they think about is the genocide … but, you got there and you see it for yourself, and that’s so far from the case. The country has come so far since 1994.”
USC Genocide Awareness Month’s next event, the “I Never Saw Another Butterfly Project,” will be held on Trousdale Parkway from April 21 through April 27.