FORT WORTH, TEXAS--
The posting from Sumaiya Iqbal in Bangladesh intrigued me and compelled me to write. First and foremost, Sumaiya, I was impressed to see the world’s future leaders such as yourself take such initiative as to contact Sara Darehshori, which led you to Nick Louvel and Michele Mitchell, and the story told in “The Uncondemned.”
It touched me to watch your video of both men and women from your university calling for the demise of rape and to read your genuine concern and commitment to end this war crime. I couldn’t help but reflect on my recent experience in Rwanda and to write my thoughts on the people of this amazing country.
The journey to Rwanda began five weeks ago with my colleague John Singleton (friend of Nick and Michele), who was going to a filmmakers’ screening of “The Uncondemned” in Kigali. I joined the group to explore the city and country—we have had 10 students from Rwanda on our campus studying English, and I was curious about their homeland. I had my predeterminations of what I would see in my first trip to an African nation, and yet none of them were realized.
A couple of days before the filmmakers’ screening, we traveled through Rwanda with a small group of professionals, including the three attorneys who were pivotal in the first-ever conviction of rape as a war crime. And of course Nick and Michele were there, too, along with other friends and supporters of the film. We visited two churches that are genocide memorial sites and an amazing school- Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda. And this is where my predeterminations were proved wrong.
As we drove through the 1000 hills, I saw a strong nation and people. I could not believe the cleanliness of this country, the pride of the people, and the beauty of the land. As we drove the highway, we saw Rwandans living their daily lives, and they appeared happy and proud. Rwanda is the most pedestrian country I have ever seen, and their culture and way of life was simplistic in some ways and so sophisticated in others. The villages were wonderful and complex centers, and I admired their societies and energy. And I wish that my own country could understand happiness is through fundamental and essential ways of life and not excess.
The evening of the filmmakers’ screening was of course a special and proud moment for those involved in the case and film production. Even President and First Lady Kagame were in attendance! Can you imagine a president of a nation watching a historic film with his citizens? The highlight was the introduction of the four women who testified in the now famous case. These four women are pillars of strength, justice and perseverance.
The week concluded with an amazing visit to Lake Kivu and enjoying the culture and music of African dance. The next morning we visited Taba—the village of the four women in “The Uncondemned.” The village women performed song and dance for the filmmakers and attorneys in appreciation of telling their story. It was a moment I will never forget. I could go on forever about all the memories—the sites we saw, the lectures we heard, the people of Rwanda.
In my mind, I saw a proud people who persevered, looked to the future, and who understand forgiveness in such a deep meaningful way that most of us cannot comprehend. And I spent the week with authentic global citizens. People like Pierre Prosper, Sara Darehshori, and Lisa Pruitt; the four women of Taba, Nick and Michele, and how they remind me of the students from Dhaka, Bangladesh who are taking action. It was pivotal for me in many ways and yet perhaps most meaningfully, I asked myself—what action have I taken to be a global citizen? Yes—I’m a professor and, yes, I think of myself as an agent of change. And yet Sumaiya Iqbal’s post and the discovery of Rwanda forced me to really think on this question. I have ideas on how I can become a better global citizen, and they are based around Rwanda. I can’t wait to embark upon that new journey with the goal of becoming a better American and global citizen.
Jane Kucko is the Director of the Center for International Studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.