Genocide remains a global problem; what are we going to do about it?
Genocide may not be the topic on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days but it should be. Genocide Watch lists 18 countries as being vulnerable to or in the middle of an active genocide. After the Allies discovered the extermination camps set up by the Germans in World War II, they pronounced, “Never again,” but the world has yet to live up to that promise. It seems like as much as the world dislikes genocide, it dislikes dealing with it even more.
Many people think of genocide as something that happened a long time ago in a country far, far away but that is not accurate. Not only is this not a relic from a bygone era but as time passes, people are not learning the lessons of genocides past. My generation (Gen X) was taught what happened during World War II. Millennials and Gen Zers are not. According to the U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, a full 63% of participants did not know that six million Jews were killed, nearly half (48%) were not able to name a camp or ghetto (there were about 44,000) and a full 20 percent blamed the Jews themselves for the Holocaust.
Given all of that, it hardly surprising that most people are unaware of the genocides that have happened since. During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the Clinton Administration refused to acknowledge what was happening there. Their official statement, put out by Dee Dee Myers, was that “acts of genocide” were taking place. Of course, after all the killing was over and done, both the United States and United Nations admitted they had failed and resorted to the same hand-wringing that was done after the Holocaust. It should be noted that the Allies had intel on the concentration camps and could have stopped the killing earlier — survivors of those camps have said that bombing them would have saved lives — but didn’t. The world seems set on the “do nothing during the genocide and then apologize after” setting.
Meanwhile, the killing continues. Today, the Rohingya, who are predominantly Muslim (there are Christian and Hindu Rohingya, too), are being butchered in Burma (Myanmar) and the Christian population of Kachin is under attack. Burundi is witnessing a repeat of what happened in Rwanda in 1994. As Sudan looks to become an Islamic Arab State, 450,000 people have been killed since 2003 and a second genocide is happening in South Sudan. India is another area where Muslims are being pushed out. The group Boko Haram, which means “Western education is evil” has pledged to get rid of all Christian schools in Nigeria and has been credited with killing Christians and kidnapping girls. These are just a few of the genocides happening today.
In the movie, Hotel Rwanda, Joaquim Phoenix’s character has a line about how the west will view the killings there. He says, that Americans will “say that’s terrible and then go back to eating their dinners.” That is true. It is also true that nearly 60% of respondents, in the survey mentioned above, think another Holocaust is possible. That seems like a pessimistic outlook until you realize, it has already happened again. Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur. It’s also happening right now.
Personally, I think there is a lot of racism in the way we look at and deal with genocide. President Bill Clinton did intervene in Kosovo but not Rwanda. I have heard, more than once, that “those people have been fighting forever, there’s nothing we can do.” We seem to look at places like Africa as “dark” continents that have always been embroiled in conflict. I call bullshit on that. Europe was a very violent place for centuries. You can say the same thing, that these people have been fighting forever, about Northern Ireland. We are less likely to become engaged when the people killing each other are brown or black.
So, what can we all do to end genocide? First, we can make sure we aren’t funding it.
- Join No Business with Genocide. It is a great new organization that calls out companies that do business with or profit from governments involved in genocide. There are some great ideas for how you can act there.
- Learn more about the problem by checking out the Genocide Watch website.
- When you learn of something happening, let your Senators and Rep the House know you want them to act.
These are a few things we all can do. As a last note, there were few heroes in Rwanda in 1994. Paul Rusesabagina was one of them. He saved 1,268 people. He has been arrested for being a dissident and critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. You can take action to help him here.