18 May 2006
Representatives of the European Union of Jewish Students recently returned from Rwanda to learn about the genocide that occurred there and draw parallels with the Holocaust.
Adam Mouchtar from Germany, program director for the European Union of Jewish Students, organized the trip on a fact finding mission to Rwanda under the title “Shared Memories – Collective Action”. The mission was supported by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Fondation pour le Mémoire de Shoah.
Frightening to see genocide as a Jew
Speaking with Carol Castiel of Voice Of America's News Now’s Press Conference USA, Mouchtar says it was frightening for him as a Jew to realize that genocide had happened again. And he feels a responsibility to bring the Rwandan story closer to Jewish students.
The group met and discussed the political situation of the country with the Minister of Youth and Education Joseph Habineza, the President of the Senate Vincent Biruta, the German Ambassador Dr Hubert Ziegler and President Paul Kagame.
At the governments official commemoration service in Cyangugu the 35 activist officially paid their condolences by placing flowers on the grave of the victims of the genocide in the Cyangugu region, where 45.000 people were murdered in the church of Nyamasheke and surrounding.
The group which also comprised of Jewish students from the US, South Africa and Israel were accompanied by Rwandan students. Alon De Lima of The Netherlands, who is vice-president of the European Union of Jewish Students, says he formed a special bond with a Rwandan student exactly his age who was only 11 at the time of the slaughter of the Tutsis and was forced to survive on his own in the woods.
"Engage young to prevent further genocides"
Peleg Reshef, the WJC director of future generations, said: "The World Jewish Congress has been on the forefront of assisting Holocaust survivors and will continue to bring its expertise in this field to help link the Jewish community to those who have experienced other genocides. We will continue to engage young leaders in educational and political actions to prevent future genocides."
EUJS Development Coordinator and Legacy Heritage Fellow Arielle Herzog said, "I am proud to now also be counted one of the leading ambassadors in our efforts and hope to promote the idea of 'Never Again.' Our Rwanda trip has been a testament to the importance and value of shared experience as EUJS continues along its path of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue alongside with the World Jewish Congress," Herzog said, who also participated in the fact finding mission to Rwanda.
A trip to the Yad Vashem Shoah Museum in Jerusalem is planned as a follow up to the successful Rwanda trip. Young Rwandan genocide survivors will meet Jewish Holocaust survivors in Israel and will learn how Israel has dealt with the trauma and the memory of the Holocaust.