On April 19-20, 2019, the Rwandan community at Michigan State University (MSU) held two events: (1) The International Symposium on Genocide, and (2) the 25th Commemoration of Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda. The theme of the International Symposium on Genocide was “Confronting the Past and Understanding the Present.” Twenty-three interdisciplinary and international scholars on genocide discussed and shared their knowledge and practical experiences on the causes and consequences of genocide, as well as on societal transformations after the genocide. Speakers focused on three main genocides: The Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, and highlighted the larger social, historical, political, and legal contexts of and social processes of genocide. These included survivors’ perspectives; genocide education; consequences of genocide, including sexual assault/rape, trauma and mental health; and issues of remembrance, denial and revisionism, transitional justice, reconciliation and forgiveness, and post-genocide social cohesion.
April 2019 marked 25 years since the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda.  At MSU, like elsewhere around the world, we organized the 25th Commemoration of Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda to remember, honor, and recognize our loved ones who perished in that tragedy, support survivors, look toward a future of healing and hope, and to reaffirm the United Nations’ commitment of “Never Again” genocide. In 1994, an estimate of over one million people, mostly Tutsi, were slaughtered in 100 days by Hutu extremists, the then government, army, militias called INTERAHAMWE, and ordinary people.
Dr. Laurie Van Egeren, Acting Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement kicked off the symposium and welcomed all participants at MSU. She said, “We are here today and tomorrow at the 25th Commemoration of Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda to share this history, honor those who died, support survivors, and explore ways we can prevent future tragedy.”
Zachary D. Kaufman, in his keynote address, highlighted ten lessons from the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda: (1) the dangers of hate speech; (2) the possibility of atrocity prevention; (3) the importance of justice and accountability; (4) promotion and representation of women’s rights; (5) the necessity of genocide education; (6) combatting the denial of genocide; (7) the importance of self-reliance; (8) ongoing support for survivors; 9) the necessity of upstanderism; and (10) fulfillment of “Never Again”.
Dr. Satish Udpa reminded us of the bitter legacies of colonialism that often underlie such tragedies. These include “long-term consequences of exploiting social divisions to conquer or control, a practice that continues to pass a shadow on the post-colonial world to this day. Examples of such exploitation occurred not only in Rwanda, but also in far reaching places such as Sri Lanka, where brother is pitted against brother and brother is pitted against sister, all in the name of tribalism or religion.”  Even today, he indicated: “We hear language of divisions and dehumanization come from those in power even in this part of the world.” He further noted, “Human kind has made a lot of progress in our times in terms of standards of living and other measures. But, we as a society, we still need to look very hard at our actions and motivations. We need to understand the long-term effects of short-term tribal thinking.” He concluded his remarks by saying: “I realize some in the audience have lost loved ones, others have suffered a great deal, and some are survivors of that genocide. We grieve with you, unite with you, work with you, and together we look to the future as we commemorate the past.”
The guest of honor for the 25th Commemoration of Genocide against the Tutsi was Professor Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States of America, and non-resident Ambassador to Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. Ambassador Mathilde noted that:
Rwanda’s political leaders pursued a policy of vilification and dehumanization aimed at Tutsi population that laid the groundwork for genocide. The media, both public and private, eagerly propagated the idea that Rwandans of Tutsi descent were somehow enemies within—even less than human—and that to kill them was an act of patriotism. In other words, the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis may have shocked the world in its scale and ferocity, but it was not a sudden or unpredictable eruption of savage violence.
Quoting Zach Kauffman, she said, “Never Again” is an unfulfilled platitude uttered again and again. Conflict continues to rage on in this world. She asked: “What have we learned from the genocide to better equip us to save innocent lives?” Quoting the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, during the 20th commemoration in 2014, she said: “Historical clarity is a duty of memory that we cannot escape. Behind the words ‘Never Again,’ there is a story whose truth must be told in full, no matter how uncomfortable.” She added: “Memory serves as a barometer of how far we have come and where we need to go. This is why we remember. Not to dwell on the past, but for it to inform a better future.”
 Honoring memory has been imperative for peace, unity, and development. Ambassador Mathilde ended her remarks by addressing young people, saying that they are Rwanda’s future.  She invited them and others to embrace memory, hold fast to tradition, build strong bonds of human solidarity, learn and teach, and above all strive to leave this world a better place than they found it.
The International Symposium on Genocide and the 25th Commemoration of Genocide against the Tutsi were organized by Dr. Jean Kayitsinga, Dr. Jean Pierre Nshyimyimana, and MSU students. The events received sponsorship and support by the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, University Outreach and Engagement, International Studies & Programs, Year of Global Africa, African Studies Center, Honors College, College of Education, Jewish Studies Center, the Julian Samora Research Institute at MSU, and the Rwandan Embassy in the United States. The events were organized in collaboration with the Rwandan American Community in the Midwest (RACM) and the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide in Rwanda (CNLG).