Carl Wilkens, who said he was the only American who remained in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, Friday spoke to students and others at Central Lakes College on the Brainerd campus about his experience.
The Rwanda genocide involved the mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people in the small eastern African nation of Rwanda in 1994. Over a 100-day period, the Rwanda and Burundi presidents were assassinated.
Wilkens, whose home is in Oregon, has shared his stories for the past four years with countless people at schools and organizations around the U.S. He also has been featured in several documentaries.
His presentation at CLC focused on encouraging people to stand up against genocide and ask state legislators for their support or by becoming involved in groups that are active in supporting the victims of the genocide. Wilkens’ has a Facebook page entitled “World Outside My Shoes” where people can join his mission.
Wilkens shared his book “I’m Not Leaving,” that he wrote of his Rwanda experience. The book was written after Wilkens listened to the tapes he recorded during the genocide, just in case he didn’t make it through.
Wilkens said his life was saved because a Rwanda woman stood in front of his house and told the militants that they couldn’t go into his home.
“She told him that their children play with my children,” Wilkens said she told the militants.
Wilkens’ book talks about how the Tutsis were being hounded to death by Hutu military extremists.
Most of Wilkens’ presentation at CLC was about the more recent news of violence in the Congo regarding the presidential election.
He discussed how Americans can help the countries that are working on improving themselves by purchasing products they produce.
Wilkens talked how the people in Rwanda and the ones who have left have stayed positive, even after losing family members through such horrific events.
Wilkens said many people in Rwanda were killed or kept as slaves where they were tortured, raped and eventually died. Wilkens said some people were able to escape but were deeply wounded and were infected with disease.
Wilkens moved to Africa in his early 20s with his wife and they ended up living in Rwanda for six years with their three children. They helped build schools and operated clinics.
For more information about Wilkens’ book interested persons may go to imnotleavingwanda.com.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.