The Simple-and Horrifying-Power of Words
The previous entry, "Questions about Reconciliation," included a question that Paul Rusesabagina asked about the Rwandan genocide:
What caused this to happen? Very simple: words.
A seemingly simple list called the "Ten Commandments of the Bahutu," from the Bahutu Manifesto of 1957, was republished in 1990 in the bimonthly newspaper Kangura. This text inflamed preexisting prejudices, fears, and economic and political conditions in order to promote ethnic cleansing. Kangura was one of the media tools that used words to incite hatred and call for the murder of all Tutsi people. The influence of this form of propaganda was so significant that the founder of Kangura, Hassan Ngeze, was tried and convicted of "genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to commit genocide by direct and published channels, and crimes against humanity (persecution and extermination)" (p. 2).
In this American election season, the lessons of Rwanda remind us to be vigilant about the ways that simple words can incite divisions, inequities, and hatred among neighbors, communities, and nations.