Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
April 7, 2004
Ten years ago, ethnic genocide was unleashed upon the peoples of Rwanda resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians. While the international community stood by and watched with horror, a blow was struck at the heart and soul of humanity.
The wound that was opened in Rwandan society reaches beyond national borders and forces all of us to reflect on what in the human heart and in society can lead to the systematic and wholesale destruction of one group by another. Political and economic exclusion, rooted in policies and programs promoting one ethnic group over another, provided a climate ripe for the manipulation of ethnic identities and the fomenting of hatred and violence. While many acted heroically, many other Catholics and Christians are counted among those involved in generating ethnic hatred and organizing and implementing the genocide.
The people of Rwanda have a daunting task rebuilding a society based on truth, justice, reconciliation and peace. We, too, have a daunting task. We must come to terms with the fact that our nation, and other nations, failed in our moral and legal obligation to act to stop the genocide in Rwanda. "Never again!" cannot be just a slogan; it must be a statement of our resolve to do all that we can to prevent and stop genocidal conflicts. If "Never Again!" is a statement of resolve, memory of Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, and other recent cases must stir us to act today in places like the Darfur region of Sudan, where threats of ethnic cleansing exist. To the degree that nations act to defend the fundamental human rights of all peoples, to that same degree they participate in the healing and reconciliation of the Rwandan people, and of all humanity.