Dr. Timothy Longman will speak about the role of the Christian church in the genocide that wracked the tiny African state of Rwanda 20 years ago and the importance of memory in the ongoing process of national reconciliation there on Sunday, November 17 at 7 p.m. at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, 6 Wonson Street, Gloucester. The event is free and open to the public.
Over four months in 1994, the small East African state of Rwanda experienced one of the most intense waves of violence in modern history. In the two decades since, a regime dominated by the main targets of the genocide—the minority Tutsis—has undertaken an impressive program of national reconciliation. But it’s also been criticized for its own human rights abuses and for war-making in neighboring Congo.
Professor Longman will talk about the complex relationship between the church in Rwanda and the violence and how the government has tried to preserve the memory of the genocide among Rwandans both as a means of reconciliation and a defense against a repeat of it, even as it has acted to suppress memories of other types of political violence, especially its own.
Timothy Longman is the director of the African Studies Center at Boston University and assistant professor of political science. He has been conducting research in Rwanda since 1992. His book, ”Commanded by the Devil: Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda”, will be published by Cambridge University Press.
Longman argues that Rwanda’s churches became implicated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide because of their historic links with the state, their active engagement in ethnic politics, and the ongoing cooperative ties between leaders of the churches and the state.
His current research focuses on state-society relations in Africa, looking particularly at human rights, transitional justice, democratization, civil society, the politics of race and ethnicity, religion and politics, and women and politics.
Longman earned a doctorate in political science at the University of Wisconsin in 1995. He was the director of the Human Rights Watch field office in Rwanda in 1995-96 and director of Rwanda research for the Human Rights Center of the University of California Berkeley in 2001-2006. He has also conducted fieldwork in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. He has previously taught at Vassar College, Columbia University, the National University of Rwanda, and the University of the Witswatersrand (South Africa).
This will be the second event of the Cape Ann Forum’s 2013/2014 season and the 79th since the organization was established in 2001. The last event of the fall will feature Middle East expert Omar Dahi on what is behind the conflict in Syria on Sunday, December 8 at the Gloucester City Hall. 2014 speakers will include Gloucester filmmakers Nubar and Abby Alexanian in February, human trafficking expert Paulette Lloyd in March and popular radio commentator Christopher Lydon in May.
For more information on the event go to the Forum’s Web site at http://www.capeannforum.org.