It was after his speech, when he began answering questions, that Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire became most impassioned.He was speaking here at an annual fundraising dinner for George Bruce, bishop of the Kingston-based diocese of Ontario, on May 8. “Remember the tsunami?” he asked, referring to the natural disaster in the Indian Ocean in late 2004. “All hell broke loose. It was horrific, and we responded incredibly.” He paused, then added, “At that very same time, people were killed, raped and displaced in Darfur, and not one plug nickel went to them.”How is it,” he continued, “that we react to a natural disaster but when there’s a man-made one we ignore it?”Lt.-Gen. Dallaire, commander of the United Nations force sent to Rwanda in 1993 to help enforce peace, spoke about the inaction of developed countries and churches and about Canada’s essential role in peace-making throughout the world.He was critical of Christians and their behaviour during the terror. “Christians devised a plan of genocide,” he said, adding that those who planned the killings were protected and evacuated from Rwanda to France (where they still live) within 48 hours after the fighting began. “The church of Rwanda supported a racist government, pitting Hutus against Tutsis. They nurtured those divisions. And those divisions were the basis of genocide.”The promotion of hatred between Hutus and Tutsis, he added, “was not stamped out by the church. No one said, ‘Stop.'”He went on to remind people what happened afterwards.”Every church, every mission became a slaughterhouse,” he said. “The people were told, ‘go to the churches and you will be protected’. Then came the militia and killed and mutilated everyone, and sometimes it took two days for them to die. Only a few priests stood firm. Most stayed passive, or they left, or they aided and abetted the murderers.”Lt.-Gen. Dallaire also commented on current affairs, saying Canada was not only right to be in Afghanistan, it is Canada’s job to protect human rights there and throughout the world, no matter how long it takes.”We are a leading middle power, a major player. We have a responsibility because of what we are. How are we going to respond to the 80 per cent of the world who live in mud, blood and squalor, people who are only hoping to be treated one day as human beings?””If that’s 40 years, 60 years, so what?” Lt.-Gen. Dallaire asked. “What’s 60 years when you’re building a nation of peace?”Twenty per cent of us cannot say we’re off to Mars or doing great things when 80 per cent are living in inhumane conditions – unless we’re saying we are more human than they are, that we have a higher priority.”And not one of us,” he said, “is more human than the other.”
Francie Healy is editor of Dialogue, the newspaper of the diocese of Ontario.