It all began at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Rwandan Genocide in Arusha, Tanzania.
I had taken a group of St. Stephen’s students on a school trip to Tanzania in 2008. We had visited a variety of different communities - women’s groups, schools, HIV/AIDS centres, a Masai village; but the highlight of the trip was to be a full day at the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha, which was then engaged in prosecuting some of the key génocidaires of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, in which nearly one million people were slaughtered.
What would it be like to sit in this court in the presence of men who had directed such a massacre? How would we react to the actual proceedings? What effect would it have on us? What an extraordinary experience this would be for our students. But it was not to be. Upon arrival, I was told that the court was not sitting that day due to unforeseen circumstances. I was devastated. But what happened after that was to have a greater impact on my life, and I believe the lives of some of our students than I could have imagined. I set up a meeting with the official spokesperson for the Tribunal, and we all went inside. He explained the formation of the Tribunal, the way it operated; he told us about the people involved, both prosecutors and prosecuted. It was fascinating, and we were impressed. While the Tribunal had had many foreign visitors, no international high school students had yet made the journey to Arusha, and so the spokesperson, in his turn, was impressed by us! He then uttered the words which were to have such an impact on the direction of my life, and which would mean the involvement of the whole St. Stephen’s community, first in Rwanda and then in DRC. “If you want to know about the genocide, you should take your students to Rwanda!”