A Study Guide for Parishioners and Classes viewing Hotel Rwanda

[1] At one point, the Canadian General bitterly says to Paul, “you’re dirt, Paul. You’re not even a nigger. You’re African.” Discuss the stereotypes (positive or negative) we have of “Africa” and how we have arrived at them. What do we know or not know of the daily lives of Africans? Was there anything in the movie pertaining to “Africa” that surprised you? How does this “perception factor” figure in today’s political, media and trade relationships?

[2] One of the great agonies of present-day Rwanda is that ordinary citizens were mobilized to be instruments of genocide. Coworkers, teachers, neighbors, clergy and even family members were told to kill or be killed. Think about statements from the radio that were fear-motivated: If you don’t kill them, they will kill you. In the movie, list the types of propaganda that were used to mobilize people to be violent. In what other situations in history have you seen or heard of similar types of propaganda? How can churches and Christians respond to this when it happens in our own society?

[3] Hutu and Tutsi were historically classes determined more by a person’s livelihood (cattle raising vs. farming) than by “ethnicity”. For several hundred years, they co-existed peacefully and intermarried and the distinctions were permeable (a Hutu could become a Tutsi, for example). They speak the same language and follow the same religions and live in the same villages. As Phillip Gourevitch says, “the distinctions were small but the blood that was shed is real.” The Lutheran Church in Rwanda and other churches as well as NGOs and government groups are working with Rwandans in the process of justice and reconciliation. It is seen by many as “the only way forward.” Discuss the challenges that this might bring to pastors and congregations. How can churches and individuals here help in that process?

[4] How does the world’s response to victims of natural disasters (such as the Indian Ocean Tsunami) compare with response to victims killed by their own governments? Discuss why this might be so. As Christians, how are we called to respond?

Further reading:
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch (Picador: September 1, 1999) – offers a concise and thorough picture of the history, the genocide and the immediate aftermath.

When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda by Mahmood Mamdani (Princeton University Press: August 12, 2002) – An influential Ugandan scholar details the colonial past, the regional issues and the political factors that gave rise to the Hutu Power movement and genocide.

A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power (Perennial: May 1, 2003) – from Armenia to Cambodia to Bosnia to Rwanda, Power examines why the words “never again” ring empty.

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Romeo A. Dallaire (Carroll and Graf: October 10, 2004) – Played by Nick Nolte in the movie, Dallaire has continued to call the UN and other foreign governments to account for their abandonment of Rwanda. This book details the military picture from an insider’s point of view.

Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda by Alison Des Forges (Human Rights Watch: March, 1999)