Lori Anne Shaw, Director of Training & Development at Duncum Center Solutions, Abilene Christian University 

The Rwandan people have much to teach us about building peace. For example, Rwandans deliberately and bravely choose hope over fear. Fear drives people to devalue and dehumanize others. For Rwandans, fear led to ideologies that caused 800,000 people to die in the genocide. Rwandans acknowledge the horror of the genocide, reflect on the harm it caused, and boldly choose to hope in a different future for Rwanda. This hope leads Rwandans to the new ideology that all people are of equal value. It leads them to the brave work of forgiveness and healing the emotional wounds left by the genocide. Lastly, it is hope in a unified country that pushes Rwandans to actively work against harmful, dehumanizing ideologies.

As Americans, we are equally as susceptible to being driven by fear as Rwandans were before the genocide. We must continue to remember that fear has led (and continues to lead) to killing in our own country. As Americans, we must be aware that ideologies that devalue others – whether it be other Americans or people from other countries – are just as dangerous as they were in pre-genocide Rwanda. Therefore, we too must bravely choose hope in the face of fear to create a better America. We can act out this hope by acknowledging that all people are of equal value, by choosing forgiveness and healing the wounds in our own relationships, and by speaking up against ideologies that dehumanize others. Then, like Rwandans, we too will be making our country a better place.