Human rights activists are expressing concern about the awareness of genocide -- they say it gets far too little attention around the world. It’s been fourteen years since the Rwandan genocide, and the activists say not enough has been done to keep them from happening in other parts of the world, such as Darfur.
An organization called Never Again International is helping young people focus on the issue. It was inspired by youth from around the globle to act as a platform for them to discuss the prevention of genocide, including conflict resolution and peace building. Melanie Tomsons, the executive director of Never Again in Canada, says the name is supposed to invoke the “never again” message “that is often a reaction after the fact.”
Tomsons says members come from countries like Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, England, United States and Canada. Their activities include traveling to high schools to speak to students about genocide and encouraging youth participation in peace building activities. Never Again has organized visits to Rwanda for students from Britain, the United States, Japan, Israel, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands.
It also organized an international youth conference in Kigali, Rwanda, with participants from Burundi, Canada, the DRC, Britain, and the United States. Melanie Tomsons says it’s the task of Never Again chapters to encourage creative peace building activities such as theater workshops, educational field trips and organized debates.
These activities engage young people in discussions “exploring the history of the genocide and the role of youth in reconciliation and development.” One of their recent projects involved organizing a workshop with young American and Rwandan human rights activists in Kigali. The meeting, which was organized in partnership with Global Youth Connect, included a discussion with Canadian senator and former UN General Romeo Dallaire, who was force commander of the UN mission to Rwanda during the genocide.
Tomsons became involved with the issue when she was an undergraduate student at McGill University in Canada. She took a course on peace building and soon she was teaching other young people about the issue. “I really had to do something about genocide prevention,” she says. Tomsons says she’s disappointed that some people deny that the genocide in Rwanda ever occurred. She compares them to the Sudanese government officials who refuse to acknowledge the genocide in Dafur. She says the solution is “to educate the youth more on these issues, so that when faced with such detractors, they know the truth.” In Rwanda, the organization is creating a peace-building center in the Kigali, and another is being planned in Canada