International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Musings on Rwanda and Edmund Burke

In hopes of gaining a better understanding of this week’s material, I decided to watch Hotel Rwanda. For those of you who may not be familiar with the film, it tells the true story of a young Hutu luxury hotel manager named Paul Rusesabagina, who harbored approximately 1,000 Hutu and Tutsi refugees in his Kigali hotel during the genocide – including his own Tutsi wife and three young children.

Unsurprisingly, the film is tragically thought provoking. I was surprised, however, by the part of the movie that I found most disturbing. It wasn’t the scene in which Paul happens upon a road littered with hundreds of massacred bodies, nor was it the scene in which the UN envoy in which they are traveling is attacked by Hutu soldiers armed with machetes. The scene that hit me the hardest was a conversation between Paul and a UN peacekeeper. The peacekeeper, with tears in his eyes and anger in his voice, tells him that no intervention force will be sent to stop the slaughter.

The next day, the Europeans at the hotel board a bus to be evacuated. They stare out at the hundreds they are leaving behind, and turn away.

We will never know who knew what when, or with what degree of certainty, but this realization made me pause. While we discuss the trials and sentences of war criminals, of international justice, we should not forget our own hand in these events. Paul’s actions saved hundreds of people – the decency of one is all that is required to save lives. Our tacit acquiescence in the peace of our comfortable lives is not a justifiable defense for inaction.

As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

After the Holocaust, we said never again. I hope these are words we can begin to live by.


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