Hotel Rwanda Hero Speaks In Tulsa

Monday, February 16th 2009, 11:16 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- His life was made into a Hollywood blockbuster.  On Monday night, a real-life hero brought his message of hope and peace to Tulsa.

The African nation of Rwanda suddenly descended into madness nearly 15 years ago.  Over a 100 day period, hundreds of thousands were slaughtered during a sudden eruption of ethnic cleansing.

"That took away approximately a million lives.  A million lives meant approximately, at that time, 15% of the population of Rwanda," said Paul Rusesabagina, genocide survivor.

One of the few stories of salvation to emerge from the genocide was that of Paul Rusesabagina.  He was able to prevent the more than 1,200 people who sought shelter at his hotel from being slaughtered.  His act of courage inspired the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda.

"Hotel Rwanda came out as wake-up call.  It came out raising awareness, telling the international community that listen this happened," said Paul Rusesabagina, genocide survivor.

Rusesabagina discussed his experiences while speaking at the University of Tulsa Monday evening.  Those in the audience say his message is a powerful one.

 "You can read about things, you can hear about things, but it's different when you're actually with people who have actually been in that circumstance," said Tulsan Debra Jenkins.

"It's important that we find out and hear first-hand about the atrocities that are happening in Africa," said Barbara Eikner of Tulsa.

Rusesabagina points out that what happened in Rwanda is now happening in places like Darfur.  The only way to stop the cycle of violence, he says, is for the world to take action.

"So my message is to urge them to stand up and change the world," said Paul Rusesabagina, genocide survivor.

Rusesabagina was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush in 2005.  He now lives in Belgium.