Genocide survivor shares story with high school students

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2007

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story

contains some graphic information.)

PROCTORVILLE — Genocide survivor Jacqueline Mureketete and two panelists addressed four schools in a video conference in honor of Interdependence Day, including Fairland High School students, Wednesday.

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Mureketete was only nine years old, living a normal happy childhood with her family in Rwanda.

In her biography, Mureketete recalls, “Laughter, love and happiness are the type of things prevalent in my childhood memories.”

Then in 1994, all that changed when a long-planned bloody attack against the Tutsis ethnic group was perpetrated by the Hutus, neighbors killing neighbors, in one of the most horrific genocides in history.

The Hutus were incited to kill every Tutsis — man, woman and child. Reports of whole families being butchered were common during the attacks.

But little Mureketete was spared when she went to visit her grandmother who took her away from the killings.

“My grandmother and I were very fortunate,” she said.

At one point she said seven men were standing over them with bloody machetes. But somehow she was spared.

She did not know until later that her parents and six siblings were all murdered. Her grandmother put her in an Italian orphanage for safety and even there she saw children with their limbs cut off with machetes. She said they buried children daily.

More than one million people lost their lives during that tumultuous time in Rwanda.

After the genocide ended, her uncle who was in the United States adopted her and she is now a fourth-year undergraduate student at New York University.

Mureketete has been traveling the country with a holocaust survivor, David Gewirtzman and they speak out against racism, hate, discrimination and intolerance, among other things.

“We as human beings can no longer go on being ignorant about genocide,” said Mureketete said. “We all have to be aware and we all have to participate in genocide prevention. Genocide can happen anywhere.”