Photo Credit: ASK_Rwanda

Last night I received the following press release from my new Secretary of State, John Kerry, which caused me an initial double take:

Commemoration of 19th Anniversary of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

The United States stands in solidarity with the Rwandan people as together we remember and honor the victims of those tragic 100 days 19 years ago. We mourn with you not only for the lives lost, but for the families torn apart, and for the survivors of the genocide who continue to live with their grief to this day. At the same time, we admire the resilience and spirit of the Rwandan people who have made such progress in overcoming this tragedy.

We look with you to the future and pay tribute to the gracious and determined character of the Rwandan people.

Is it possible? I asked myself. Two memorials for national genocides on the same day? Are we so packed with genocidal events on this miserable blue ball that we now have to observe them two at a time?

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I checked the Rwanda.net website, and came back with the following information:

April 7th is the beginning of the Genocide Memorial Week. It is a time to remember the atrocities committed against our fellow man while the world sat back and watched. If you are not familiar with the genocide in Rwanda, I would recommend reading about it. There are many books that shed light on this terrible event in our history. Below is a summary from the government about why they have time each year to remember such a horrific event. Remember, it happened before, it happened in 1994, and it can happen again. The only way to prevent events in the future is to learn from the past. I know there is a lot below, so if you don’t read all of it, PLEASE at least read what I think are the important parts highlighted.

April 7th is Rwanda’s National Mourning Day for the Genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda. It is observed:

– To remember what happened during the Genocide

– To sympathize with, and provide support to, Genocide survivors as they go through tough moments of remembering atrocities

– To restore the dignity of our beloved ones who were killed, by burying them properly, remembering the good things about them and giving tribute to those who struggled to save lives during that period.

– To reflect on the crime of Genocide, and other related crimes against humanity, and to resolve to “Never Again” allow Genocide to occur.

– To observe a minute of silence at 12 noon on April 7th.

Now, to be fair, the reason we observed the Jewish Holocaust memorial day on April 7th at night is because this year this is when the 27th of Nissan fell, and next year it’ll be observed on Sunday, April 27. So the day actually belongs permanently to the Rwandan people, and we’re only using it this year.

Next year, we’ll be competing for memorial turf with the commemoration of the institution of Apartheid in South Africa — the passing of the “Group Areas Act,” which formally segregated the races, on April 7, 1950.

Also, in 1813, American troops captured Toronto. But, I suppose, whether this was a sad or a joyous event would depend on your current location vis-à-vis the border.

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