LETTERS : Remembering the Holocaust is not enough

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The Independent Online
Sir: I found Robert Block's article ("`Never Again' obviously doesn't apply in Rwanda", 28 January) a deeply moving, shocking and accurate condemnation of the world's inaction in the face of modern ethnic slaughter.

Primo Levi wrote of the day when he, an inmate of Auschwitz, heard that the Allies were advancing and that an end to the Nazi Holocaust might be in sight. Fifty years ago there was a purpose in the world to stand up to such evil. This week we have been remembering the events of 50 years ago.

Last April I received a fax from a hotel in Rwanda. It said: "There are 500 of us in the hotel. There are six soldiers guarding us but several attempts have been made to kill us ... Cry out to the world our tragedy. We want to live." I do not know what happened to the writer. The world did not respond in time to halt the genocide. And human memories are short, even when such terrible events happened only nine months ago.

It was to institutionalise the memory of the genocide in Rwanda that Oxfam and the Save the Children Fund sponsored the Genocide Seminar, which Robert Block refers to, to educate new aid workers about the enormity of last year's events and the deep angeramong Rwandese at the international community's abandonment of them in their hour of need. It is also why the new government, with the assistance of Unicef, plans to rebury the dead with ceremony and dignity. It is why the new government hopes to dedicate the church at Nyarabuye, where so many were killed, as a national memorial to Rwanda's Holocaust.

But remembrance must be matched by the actions needed to avert the real danger of renewed slaughter. By itself, humanitarian relief will not avert that. What could is a serious effort to bring security to those Rwandese who have fled and who are still intimidated by the killers, and to help the new government rebuild a fair judiciary and reconstruct their country.

Yours sincerely, David Bryer Director, Oxfam Oxford 30 January