Debaters from Rwanda Travel to Idaho State University for Two-Day Event Focused on Living in a Post-Genocidal Generation

The James M. and Sharon E. Rupp Debate Team hosted a two-day event featuring the iDebate Rwanda Team on Oct. 25 and 26 on the Idaho State University campus. The event offered attendees an opportunity to hear the stories and experiences of living in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide.

Debaters from Rwanda Travel to Idaho State University for Two-Day Event Focused on Living in a Post-Genocidal Generation

 

The James M. and Sharon E. Rupp Debate Team hosted a two-day event featuring the iDebate Rwanda Team on Oct. 25 and 26 on the Idaho State University campus. The event offered attendees an opportunity to hear the stories and experiences of living in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide.  

Three events were held on campus and included a photo exhibit, a debate with the ISU debate team and a documentary followed by speeches and a question and answer session. The team from Rwanda brought a unique look into what it is like to be living in a post-genocidal generation by showcasing the lives of the people of Rwanda.  

“The Rwandan debate team visit and presentations were quite powerful,” said ISU communications professor, Dr. John Gribas. “Their hopefulness in light of their grizzly history is inspiring. They made clear the desperate need for civil discourse and a commitment to forgiveness, not just in areas recovering from genocide, but locally and globally. I do think their visit will get many people here in the Pocatello area thinking long and hard on important issues.”

The photo exhibit was held on the second floor of Frazier Hall and showed the youth of Rwanda and helped give viewers an idea of what Rwanda looks like today.

Next, the iDebate team joined the ISU debate team to form blended pairs with one student from each group debating against each other. The title of the debate was, “This house believes that forgiveness is more important than justice in the aftermath of genocide.” Both sides painted a picture of the things that the people of Rwanda experienced during and after the 1994 genocide that left over one million people dead.

“The international community ignored the tragedies that happened in Rwanda, and I think it makes us question who we are and how we ignore a lot of things that happen that we shouldn't,” said ISU debater Mike Chen. “I think the debate educated people and spurred discussion. At the very least, it will be in people's minds.”

One team argued that in order for victims of the genocide to truly move forward in their lives, forgiveness must be a step taken even if it takes time to get to that point. The second team focused their points on the importance of justice for the people that were killed. This team showed that the people that caused this event must be held accountable for their actions and punished accordingly.

“I can’t express how fortunate ISU and our department is to host such extraordinary students and debaters,” said Dr. Karen Hartman, professor of public relations. “Some ISU students had never heard of the Rwandan genocide, and bringing those experiences and perspectives to Pocatello can only help our students understand life outside of Southeast Idaho.” 

The final event started with a documentary that showed attendees what Rwanda looked like during the 1994 genocide and moved on to show how education brought a change to their lives. The students showed how the invention of their debate team, iDebate, gave an option for them to express themselves in an open dialogue and gave them a voice that many felt they didn’t have before.

This event also allowed the team to share their personal stories of how the genocide affected them. The debaters had hundreds of family members who were murdered, and they told stories about how growing up without fathers or mothers pushed them to be a new generation that could help rebuild their country. One debater gave the audience an in-depth description of how the genocide happened and how one group of people began killing their neighbors in mass overnight.

“The greatest message I take is that when we think something can't happen here, we need to think again,” said ISU’s assistant debate coach Andrew Christensen.  “That's the heart of the justification of their message: while this genocide happened far-away in Africa, it happened because a lot of tiny little judgments about others collided to create a condition that simply spiraled out of control.  It's an important lesson for all people, that the little things we say and do really do count.”

Written by Nic Tarbet, College of Arts and Letters Intern

 

 

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