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Why do we remember?

By JO Ingabire, ST Gen Secretary and Content Strategy Director

Why do we remember? Why does our history matter? I often hear of tales of elderly folk on their deathbeds looking back on their lives searching for memories that will say, ‘My life mattered.’If our memories are the sum of our human experience, how can victims of crime and genocide find meaning beyond their trauma? 

I’m not thirty yet but for most of my short life I was defined defined by a singular event that has shaped my personality, my approach to social interaction,my entire worldview. This is not uncommon for people like me, Rwandans affected by the genocide against the Tutsis. In a matter of three months, a nation was changed beyond recognition by mass murder of a people group by their own government. That kind of violence registers not just on the nation’s psyche but on it’s soul. And yet every April, Rwandans take week out of their calendar to remember. 

In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly established 9 December as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. 

Personally, I think remembering for the victim cannot only be therapeutic, but it is essential in constructing an identity beyond the trauma. By acknowledging the hurt endured, there can be healing. In facing and confronting your persecutors, there’s justice and dignity to be found. The word ‘victim’ often carries negative connotations and unnecessarily so. When it comes to issues of genocide where a people are systematically persecuted, it is vital to acknowledge their plight. When they are silenced, brutalized, oppressed, an essential part of restoring dignity is to address the manner of their persecution and create forums where their voices can be heard again and their stories told.

 

It is important to remember the perished and with living victims, to look back at their memories and say, ‘Your life mattered.’ Commemoration goes beyond learning from an event in history. It begins the process of writing history free of war and genocide.

Personally, I think remembering for the victim cannot only be therapeutic, but it is essential in constructing an identity beyond the trauma. By acknowledging the hurt endured, there can be healing. In facing and confronting your persecutors, there’s justice and dignity to be found. The word ‘victim’ often carries negative connotations and unnecessarily so. When it comes to issues of genocide where a people are systematically persecuted, it is vital to acknowledge their plight. When they are silenced, brutalized, oppressed, an essential part of restoring dignity is to address the manner of their persecution and create forums where their voices can be heard again and their stories told.

It is important to remember the perished and with living victims, to look back at their memories and say, ‘Your life mattered.’ Commemoration goes beyond learning from an event in history. It begins the process of writing history free of war and genocide.

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