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Speaking of Heros, Hearing Them

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on December 5, 2020 09:06

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We pride ourselves on celebrating heros, but do we listen to what they say? Do we heed their warnings? It is worth taking time to hear General Dallaire reflect on the Rwandan massacre, genocide, and hatred in our time.

Roméo Dallaire served as United Nations Force Commander in Rwanda in 1994, at the time of the genocide in which up to a million people perished, and hundreds of thousands of women were raped. If you don’t know the story, read it here, and consider reading his book, "Shake Hands with the Devil."

 

The man who served as his Aide de Camp, Dutch Willem de Kant, whom I am honored to call a friend, alerted me to yet another honor being offered to Dallaire. He has served as a Senator and holds the Order of Canada, the Canadian Order of Military Merit, the Legion of Merit of the USA, was asked to help carry the Canadian flag into the opening ceremony of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, numerous Honorary Doctorates, and other honors too numerous to mention.

The University of Leiden every year remembers Prof. Rudolph Cleveringa who, on 26 November 1940, spoke up against the dismissal of his Jewish colleague, Eduard Meijers, by appointing a rotating President to address issues of law, freedom and responsibility. This year General Dallaire was invited. Anyone and everyone interested in peace and politics should take one hour to listen to his address.

Dallaire describes graphically how he saw the preparations, the buildup to a genocide, how he warned the UN and the international community to no avail, how eventually he disobeyed orders to close down his mission and to abandon those he could still protect.

Dallaire briefing UN officials, 1994. John Isaac UN Photo

Hy describes how children were sucked into a maelstrom of violence, abuse and exploitation, and of the importance of recognizing the common humanity in all of us. He also points out that humanity has learned the lessons of violent conflict, and the dangers of creating a foundation for generational wars. He describes how great powers seem more interested in protecting their own, selling arms, creating public relations events while people, children suffer.

Orphan of the genocide. John Isaac UN Photo

Orders, he insists, must be morally justifiable, otherwise, they must be disobeyed. He points out that governments have a responsibility to protect, not just their own citizens, but also humanity at large because the sovereignty of the individual should rise above that of the state.

Dallaire graphically describes the mental wounds soldiers bring back from war, wounds that their families bear as well, wars often glorified by politicians, but often the results of failure of political leadership. 

As we enter into a period of global disorder we should be nurturing the safety of the younger generation of the world, because the opposite is a world order guided by hate, greed and the search for power.


But then John Donne has already said it four hundred years ago: No man is an island... What diminishes the humanity of the child in the photo above diminishes me and you. 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on December 5, 2020 09:06

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Source: Forbes

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