We are living in a small world, but the ease of communication that is brought by the blogsophere and videoconferencing technologies does not change the incredible pain and suffering experienced by many in the past and present.

While reading the Global Voices Online – Armenia blog posts tonight I read through to find Onnik Krikorian’s Oneworld blog and post about the Armenian priest Father Vazken who has taken a recent trip to Rwanda, where he is collecting testimonies of people who survived the genocide there. Here is a quotation from Father Vazken’s post from March 15th:

In his concluding words, Rev. Murray took a 5,000 francnote and showed it to the people. He asked them to identify it. Then he went through a process of wrinkling, crumbling, and even stomping it. He asked them how much it was worth then? The answer, like their lives, was obvious – no matter how bad the struggle, the value of life would never change. A few members of the congregation gave their testimony. One young man – early 20’s – though his face and stature would make you think he was 15, began to tell his story. He’s an orphan head of house. He lost his parents. They killed his father in front of his eyes. He watched the rape of his mother. He lost everything. He talked about his father’s killers – they lived down the street from him. He even confessed that he was tempted on several occasions to pour gas on their home and kill them, but he knew he would end up in prison. He did spend some time in jail for an altercation with the killers. It is the ultimate injustice if you think about it. How much is a person to endure, to live next to his father’s killer?

Can you imagine living down the street from your father’s killers? Do all the problems in your life not shrink in comparison to the idea of surviving a genocide? I have spent the past two days listening again, four more times to add to the previous one time, to the testimony of Eva Hance and Mark Geeslin. Eva survived the Dachau Concentration Camp during World War II, and Mark was a liberator of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp as he served as a soldier in the US Army’s 11th Armored Division. Last October when I first heard them share their stories, the audio recording of their messages was shared as a podcast on the Texas Tech College of Education podcast channel. There were probably around 75 people in the audience the day I heard them speak last year.

This time, thanks to the hard work of many people and lots of coordination, Mark and Eva shared their message and testimonies not only with a local Lubbock audience, but also with students and teachers around the state of Texas and even in other states. This small ethernet cable which connected to the Polycom videoconferencing unit in the room literally was the connection for approximately 15,000 students to watch and hear their stories:

The magic plug to connect 15,000

I love this photo of Eva and Mark, taken on Tuesday this week:

Mark and Eva

Today was the final day they shared their testimonies about World War II– they are now “retiring” from the speaking circuit. What a tremendous service they have provided as they have shared their stories hundreds of times over the past three years. Starback Communications has provided an archived webstream of the presentations that will be available for the next two weeks. When I tried to access it tonight I could not login– I am not sure what is up with that, but will try and find out.

As Eva said in her presentation, we must reject hate. Hate was behind the Holocaust. It was behind the 9-11 bombings. It is behind many of the actions we hear about in the press, but often there are other voices that need to be heard as well.

Do not settle for a mainstream press view of current events. Read the Global Voices blog and encourage others you know to do the same. Interactive videoconferences like the ones we’ve done this week from Texas Tech are exactly the types of learning opportunities we need to be providing MORE OFTEN to students.

As Dr. Michael Byers argued persuasively in Vancouver for UBC students last October, we need to be encouraging and exhorting students of all ages today to develop conceptions of global citizenship. This includes many responsibilities, as well as ostensibly basic human rights.

What are you passionate about? What is going on in the world that you are mad about? What sorts of things make your heart cry out, if not your mouth as well? Our students must understand that we study the past so we do not repeat it. We learn the skills of communication so we can fight with the tongue and not the sword, as Imam Siraj Wahhaj eloquently stated at the University of Virginia on March 20, 2006.

Life is precious. We must learn to forgive, and always live our lives with love rather than hate in our hearts. We must teach and learn alongside our students with the passion that comes from caring deeply about other human beings and the human condition. And we must act with the confidence that both individually and collectively, we shape the future.


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