Yad Vashem holds genocide seminar

International seminar on Rwanda broadens Authority's scope beyond WWII.

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Broadening its outlook on genocide, Yad Vashem on Wednesday hosted an international seminar dealing with the Rwanda genocide carried out a decade ago, effectively expanding its half-century old approach on dealing exclusively with the murder of European Jewry during the Holocaust, in an effort to reach out to a worldwide audience. The unprecedented week-long seminar on a non-Holocaust related genocide was the initiative of a group of Tutsi survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide who looked to Israel and Yad Vashem in particular to learn how the Holocaust is memorialized in the Jewish State, as a point of reference for their own remembrance. The seminar is being carried out in conjunction with a Belgian and Rwandan based Tutsi non-governmental organization as well as the French Memorial of the Shoah. "You suffered before we did, and you have important lessons which to teach us," said Yolande Mukagasana, the director of the Tutsi Organization, Nyamirambo, and one of the first survivors of the Rwandan Genocide to document the mass murder in a recent book. "We need you in order to rebuild," she said. The event, which included a discussion entitled 'The Genocide in Rwanda Have we Learned Anything from the Holocaust?' was a turning point in Yad Vashem's 52 year old history in that while maintaining the uniqueness of the Holocaust, Israel's Holocaust Martyr's and Heroes Remembrance Authority directly dealt with a non-Holocaust related genocide at its prestigious international school for Holocaust studies. "One of the fundamental questions we ask ourselves regarding the genocide of the Jews - or the genocide of the Tutsis - is how this could happen," said the Chairman of the Yad Vashem directorate Avner Shalev. "Our task is...to see to it that such genocides do not happen again," he said. The head of Yad Vashem said that it was the obligation of both survivors and the international community, which failed to stop either the Holocaust or, more recently, the Rwandan Genocide, to construct a system of values of human existence - values which, he said, were shattered in the Holocaust and were nonexistent in Rwanda as well last decade. Six million Jews were systematically murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. About one million people, mainly minority Tutsis and political moderates from the Hutu majority, were murdered in 100 days in the Rwandan Genocide last decade. Conceding a "shift" in longstanding policy, the head of Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies Dr. Motti Shalem said that as a center which teaches Holocaust it was both critical and obligatory to actively speak out against genocide and mass murder whenever it happens, while still maintaining the uniqueness of the Holocaust. "This is the Jewish approach to sanctify the memory of the Holocaust," said Professor Yisrael Cherney, President of the International Association for Genocide Research.