Genocide Education as Moral Formation

I still remember my utter perplexity at a so-called professor of Genocide Studies at a Canadian university having accused me of “voyeurism” for having travelled to Germany, Poland, and Rwanda on genocide study trips.

Now, I can see that such a bizarre accusation might stem from failing to see the way in which studying genocide properly can actually constitute an education in moral sense. By learning about perpetrators and meeting with rescuers and survivors, my friends and I with whom I studied and travelled encountered the moral drama of human action and responsibility in persons and deeds, not in mere systems or abstractions.

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All the skulls looked the same

Nine years ago today, I was visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial during the Reflections on Rwanda study trip.

Both at the museum, and then at numerous genocide sites we visited throughout the country, there was a room filled with the skulls and bones of victims.

What is the value of such genocide education where new generations see the bodies of victims of in this way?

For me, it was quite dramatic. I don’t think I had ever seen real human skulls before. Knowing the reasons for these ones being on permanent display heightened the intensity.

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When genocide concerns you

Today is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day and I’ve been reading through Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story: A Personal Account of the Armenian Genocide while eating some Armenian snacks from my Ararat Box.

Genocide is a weighty word and the recognition of it implies our moral responsibility not to be bystanders to the egregious evils of which we admit being aware.

During the First World War, Henry Morgenthau, a German-born Jewish American was serving as the the fourth 4th US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

As ambassador, he did his utmost to try to reason with the Ottoman authorities, to stop the genocide, and to implore the U.S. government on behalf of the Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians who were being persecuted and massacred.

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