Saturday, 18 July 2009

From Archbishop to Chelsea star, public figures mark Rwandan genocide anniversary

Religious leaders, football stars and actors back ‘Candles for Rwanda’ initiative as Rwanda prepares to mark end of the 1994 genocide

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and Hollywood star Danny Glover are among the latest public figures to light candles on camera as part of ‘Candles for Rwanda’ (, a global initiative to mark the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and help destitute survivors who are still suffering from its consequences 15 years on.

“The tragedy of Rwanda is that for a while, people completely forgot the humanity of their neighbours. People who had lived side by side for generations, people familiar with each other who knew each other well as human beings, suddenly forgot that other people were human beings. And that is always what happens when genocide occurs,” says Dr Rowan Williams in lighting his candle at Lambeth Palace. “The people of Rwanda are rebuilding bravely and prayerfully and hopefully at the moment, and our prayers and our thoughts are with them. All of us join with those prayers, that we may never again, anywhere in the World, forget the humanity of our neighbours; that we may all be prepared to stand alongside our neighbours in love, in solidarity, and in compassion.”

Didier Drogba: “Even if this flame ceases to burn, we have to remember all of our brothers who are gone”

“I light this candle in honour and homage to the victims of the genocide, simply so we can remember,” says Didier Drogba. “Even if this flame ceases to burn, we have to remember all of our brothers who are gone, and the conditions in which they went. It's important not to forget our past; it's important to remember our past, to avoid committing again in the future the mistakes which were made. So all my support, and here, this flame, the symbol of my homage to the Rwandan people.”

“It's a courageous act to dispel all of your fears, your anger, and all the historic pain that has been a part of that experience for the people, to take on the task now of healing,” says Danny Glover. “That process of healing not only involves the Rwandan people but it also involves all of us as part of the human experience and the human family.”

Both Danny Glover and Didier Drogba lit their candles at the Kigali Memorial Centre in Rwanda, a site where over 250,000 victims of the genocide lie buried.

Over the course of 100 days from 7 April 1994, around a million children, women and men were slaughtered in Rwanda simply because they were Tutsi. Hutus opposed to the onslaught were also killed. The international community knew what was happening and the media reported on it, but nothing was done to intervene.

Today, despite the trauma of the past, Rwanda is rebuilding and its economy is growing. However, thousands of survivors whose homes, means of living, loved ones and communities were taken away from them are still suffering the material consequences of the genocide.

‘Candles for Rwanda’ is intended to help change all that. Coordinated by the Aegis Trust, the initiative encourages people everywhere to go online and donate £5.00 to help survivors rebuild their lives. And for every £5.00 donation, a candle will be lit on behalf of the donor at the Kigali Memorial Centre.

On Sunday, a national event will be held in Rwanda to mark the 15th anniversary of the end of the 1994 genocide. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Didier Drogba and Danny Glover will appear in a film that will be screened at the event featuring a host of public figures and celebrities from around the World who over the past three months have lit candles for Rwanda.

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