On Monday, January 23, Joseph Sebarenzi, former leader of the Rwandan Parliament, will speak at Hampden-Sydney College on "A Message of Peace and Reconciliation."
Sebarenzi lost his parents, seven siblings, and other relatives in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Years later, as a senior government official in a position to exact revenge, he instead pushed for peace and reconciliation. "Revenge is like adding guilt to victimhood," says Sebarenzi. "It solves nothing. At some point, we have to ignore the past and envision the future. Forgiveness is a moral response to injustice, and victims should take the lead."
Sebarenzi grew up in Rwanda, and as a child saw glimpses of the tribal violence which years later would engulf his country. In 1994, when Hutus slaughtered more than 800,000 Tutsis, Sebarenzi and his immediate family were safely out of the country, but many of Sebarenzi's extended family were not so lucky.
Returning to Rwanda, Sebarenzi rose through the ranks of Parliament, eventually becoming Speaker, third in power only to the country's president. As the leader of parliament, Sebarenzi worked to improve the national government, speaking out for parliamentary independence and against corruption in the ruling party. Informed of a plot to assassinate him and forced to resign, he fled Rwanda and found exile in the United States.
Today, Sebarenzi and his family live in Virginia. He teaches conflict resolution at the School for International Training, lectures on his experiences, consults, works toward his Ph.D. and is writing his autobiography. He plans to return to Rwanda eventually and hopes his home country will soon be a safe place for people of all races, creeds, and heritages.
The lecture, free and open to the public, will take place at 7:30 PM, in Crawley Forum. The program is sponsored by the Hampden-Sydney College Office of Intercultural Affairs.