Tuesday, January 29, 2008

“Stand Up and Save the World”

Today I listened to Paul Rusesabagina speak about his experiences helping thousands of Tutsi and Hutu refugees in Rwanda. The movie Hotel Rwanda was based on his story. As I sat in the Marriott Center listening to this man who had risked his life for strangers, I thought about how life’s trials are not an accident. I thought about how we are sometimes placed in certain situations to offer help to others that only we can offer. Rusesabagina said that many have asked him why he did it, why he risked his life for these people, most of whom were from a rival tribe, the enemy (Rusesasbagina is Hutu and most of the refugees were Tutsi). He said, “God took the decision from me.” He said he knew he had to do the right thing. At one point, a soldier threatened him at gunpoint as he was driving a truckload of refugees to the hotel for safety. He looked around him at the refugees looking for help and safety; a woman holding a baby, old women and men, families with children. He asked the soldier to look at the baby and ask himself if he really thought that that baby was the enemy. The soldiers let them go. Rusesabagina said, “God always has good ways to save his people. . . . Do not lose hope. There is always a solution.”

Recently I’ve been reading books and watching movies that have made an impact on the way I think and see the world. I couldn’t stop thinking after I watched Gone Baby Gone, American History X, Amazing Grace, and To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve also recently read interviews with Maya Angelou and Holocaust survivors. I thought about them for days afterward and tried to imagine myself in their position. Some of the movies were highly disturbing and political, some were unbelievable stories of sacrifice and selflessness, and the price of doing what is right rather than what is easy. I had the same thoughts as I sat and listened to the story of Paul Rusesabagina and what one man did to help complete strangers when help was needed. He downplays his role saying that he only did what he thought God wanted him to do. He then asked the audience to “stand up, stand up and save the world.” He spoke mainly of Africa where disease and civil war and genocide is still going on. He asked us to be aware of what is happening in the world, then find a way to do something. I started thinking of what is happening in our world, our communities right here in America. It may not be a civil war, but we are still fighting ignorance, prejudice, religious intolerance, bigotry, and discrimination. We can choose to be a little less selfish and a little more forgiving and temperate. We can, here and abroad, stand up and save the world.


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