CCHR Co-sponsors “Witnessing Genocide” Conference

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Juan Mendez Survivors from the war-torn nations of Rwanda and Darfur, a Holocaust survivor, journalists, and others will converge at Notre Dame on Sunday and Monday, April 6-7 for the conference “Witnessing Genocide: Truth, Reconciliation, and the Media.” The event is co-sponsored by Notre Dame Law School’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, and will be held in McKenna Hall on campus.

Beginning at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Juan Méndez, the former special advisor to the United Nations Secretary General, will deliver opening remarks about genocide prevention. Méndez was also director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights from 1999-2004. He will be joined by survivors of the Holocaust and the atrocities in Darfur. At 7 p.m. on Sunday, the film “Beyond the Gates” will be shown in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. The movie is about a teacher and a priest who must decide whether to stay in Rwanda to help save Tutsis from the Hutus or leave and save themselves.

On Monday beginning at 9 a.m., members of the media discuss their coverage of genocide. Speakers include “New York Times” journalist Ellen Barry, film critic Daniel M. Kimmel, and Bridget Conley-Zilkic of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Other featured speakers during the day include Menachem Rosensaft, founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and Egide Karuranga, a Rwandan who took refuge in the Hotel des Milles Collines—also known as Hotel Rwanda—during the 1994 genocide.

The day concludes with a lecture by Thane Rosenbaum, a human rights law professor, critically-acclaimed novelist, and essayist on culture and politics. His talk, entitled “After Auschwitz and the Twin Towers: Trauma and Memory,” addresses how to properly memorialize a tragic event, what moral duties are owed the dead, and what obligations the living have to the dead?

“This multidisciplinary conference will focus the expertise and resources of the University on how we can back up our oft-repeated vow of ‘Never Again,’” says Sean O’Brien, assistant director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the Law School. “What do the experiences of genocide survivors, human rights advocates, artists and the media tell us about the human capacity for evil as well as
reconciliation? If the conference can push participants and attendees to reflect on these questions, we will move one step closer to fulfilling our vow.”