12 April 2019
I am honoured to be with you on this solemn and moving occasion.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
In one of the darkest chapters in recent human history, more than one million people – overwhelmingly Tutsi, but also moderate Hutu and others who opposed the genocide – were systematically killed in less than three months.
On this Day, we honour those who were murdered and reflect on the suffering and resilience of those who survived.
I would particularly like to acknowledge the presence of our dear guests from Rwanda – Mrs. Esther Mujawayo and Father Marcel Uwineza – who survived the genocide and who will be sharing their stories with us.
Today we stand in solidarity with the people of Rwanda.
But, our reflection on the Rwandan genocide also must should beyond one country and one moment in history.
We must take a hard look at the present.
As we renew our resolve to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again, we are seeing dangerous trends of rising xenophobia, racism and intolerance in many parts of the world.
Particularly troubling is the current widespread proliferation of hate speech and incitement to violence. Things that were very clearly present in Rwanda immediately before the genocide.
They are an affront to our values, and threaten human rights, social stability and peace.
The massacre at two mosques in New Zealand a few weeks ago is just the latest tragedy rooted in such poison.
Today’s commemoration gives us an opportunity to once again raise our voices against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, including social and ethnic discrimination, anti-Muslim hatred and anti-Semitism.
Wherever they occur, these evils should be identified, confronted and stopped to prevent them leading, as they have in the past, to hate crimes and genocide.
I call on all political, religious and civil society leaders to reject hate speech and discrimination, and to work vigorously to address and mitigate the root causes that undermine social cohesion and create conditions for hatred and intolerance.
The capacity for evil resides in all societies.
But, so too, do the qualities of understanding, kindness, justice and reconciliation.
That is one of the profound lessons of the Rwandan experience.
The country’s recovery is a rightful source of pride and comfort for the people and Government of Rwanda.
I would also like to commend Rwanda for its exemplary role in the international community.
Rwanda is today the fourth largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations.
It is notable that a nation that has endured the worst atrocities should risk its soldiers to ensure those atrocities cannot happen elsewhere.
After having suffered unspeakable gender-based violence, women now hold 60 per cent of parliamentary seats – another example that Rwanda can share with the world.
Rwanda has also embraced environmental sustainability.
As a pioneer in banning single-use plastic bags, it is now one of the cleanest nations on earth.
In all, Rwanda’s experience holds so many lessons for humanity.
From the darkest depths, the country has risen in a quarter century as a pioneer for the sustainable future we all strive for.
On this day of commemoration, let us all pledge to work together to build a harmonious future for all people, everywhere.
This is the best way to honour those who lost their lives so tragically in Rwanda 25 years ago.