Hotel Rwanda

A few nights ago I watched Hotel Rwanda for the first time. It was heartbreaking.

There is one part which particularly stands out in my mind: Paul, the hotel manager, who is hidding refugees in his hotel, is speaking with Jack, a foreign journalist. Paul thanks him for shooting footage of the genocide, as it means people will come to help them. Then, and this is what breaks my heart, Jack makes a comment which is, to our shame, too often true:

“I think if people see this footage, they’ll say ‘Oh, my God, that’s horrible.’ And then they’ll go on eating their dinners.”

We don’t care enough. It doesn’t have a big enough impact on us. There is so much talk about defending our fellow citizens and their freedoms. That is why we went to Iraq (supposedly) – to liberate the people, give them freedom, and protect our own freedoms. Have we forgotten, however, that as Christians our first loyalty is to Jesus? Our home is in heaven – we are citizens of heaven first and foremost, being a citizen of the UK or of the USA is secondary. Should our first loyalty not be to our fellow brothers and sisters around the world then? As Christians, as citizens of heaven, should we not be against war? Against the slaughter of innocent lives. Our brothers lives.

Forgive me if I have this all wrong. I’m still wrestling with it and trying to understand it in my own mind.

“… I believe in a God of scandalous grace. I have pledged allegiance to a King who loves evildoers so much he died for them, teaching us that there is something worth dying for but nothing worth killing for.”

[Shane Claiborne]

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13 Responses to “Hotel Rwanda”


  1. 1 Shawn B. January 3, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Emma,
    I first wanted to say I served in the U.S. Army for four years. I wanted to see if I could help you out with the questions you may have. First you are totally correct we are citizens of “the kingdom of God” first and foremost. Second I apose the war in Iraq, an freely will say not because of the loss of life, but because it is impossible to bring democracy to a culture who does not wish to have it. Let me qualify that by saying a true democracy as certain aspects in it’s constitution as seperation of church and state. This is not meant to protect the government, but to protect religious freedoms of the people, being Brittish you may understand this one. Muslim cultures entertwine their government systems with the koran.

    I am not going to tell you to be or not to be against war. In the Bible God allows for war and it is the only acceptable time murder can take place. In fact if you look at the orders he gave the Hebrew nation, He ordered them to go to war. It also says in the Bible to “obey the laws of the land” and “render unto ceasar what is cearsar’s and God what is God’s”. We are to be subbordinate to the government systems God has put in place. This does not mean I like war, just the oppostie it is sad, but a sad fact of life and history.

    I have seen “Hotel Rwanada” and infact have a copy on dvd. But lets not forget this kind of thing happens everywhere all over the world, even in coutries that are not third would. Take Omagh for example, it was definantly swept under the rug for political reasons. That doesn’t make it right. “Hotel Rwanda” is just one of thousands of stories like it. This is why I have accepted my calling and am attempting to fullfil te great commision by going in faith to a country in which I can be the light that God has called me to be. Peace.

    Your Brother in Christ, Shawn

  2. 2 emmsy January 4, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    Shawn, thanks for the boldness to help bring some answers. I am wrestling with the issue of just war etc at the minute, hence reading the book, ‘What About Hitler?’ I understand where you are coming from in saying God allows for war, I agree with you in principle that God did send people to war. I used to agree with you completely in fact, and had planned to join the Navy after university.

    However I have grown lately to think I disagree with war at all costs. (I know… I have many questions and few answers… but I need to be honest!) I understand that God sent people to war, but I am inclinded to believe that was under the Old Covenant… I don’t know of any time in which God sent people to war after Jesus was born (if you do, please enlighten me?) I am growing to believe that under the new covenant in which we live, war is no longer a justifiable solution to a problem. Please hear me right on this… I have no concrete answers, I’m simply trying to honestly relay what is happening in my heart and mind. This does, however, leave us with a problem – if war is not justifiable, how then do we deal with the problem of evil? Truth? I don’t know! I’m still trying to work it out. And im not saying I have this down… maybe you are right. But we’re helping each other along the way, right?

    I also don’t think ‘obey the laws of the land’ or ‘render unto ceasar what is ceasar’s’ are reasons to go to war, although I don’t think you intended them to be?

    Thanks for the willingness to share with me on this one Shawn!

  3. 3 Shawn B. January 5, 2007 at 6:21 am

    Emma, Emma, Emma…Welcome to not being sure about much. I have this boarde meeting in my head very often on this subject. “the itty bitty committy” has just ajourned and here are the minutes from said meeting. First off in refernece to war in the New Testament there is two factors you have to look at, 1) the New testament was written over a very short period of time just after Jesus’s death. When I say short I mean with in a 100 years or so, which is a stark contrast to the however many thousand year period the old testament was taken place during.2) I would consider Jesus returning to rein on earth and the ensuing armagedon a pretty sizable war that will still take place. Please let me qualify this statement as I am no eschatologist, have no formal schooling in said subject, and wrestle with the whole end times debate myself. Just a thought out there for you.

    Like I said, I was in the Army and prior to going in I was pretty gunho and all that happy horse poop. As I have matured both socially and spiritually my views have changed. Do I like war? Nope, not one bit. Do I understand war? Nope not one bit(although I can tell you how to desensitize someone by refering to other people as such words as enemy, target, opponent, which takes away their basic human element). I wrestle with the same things you do, questions like how do we deal with evil? When is it ok to defend ourselves as sovereign nations? How do we deal with tyranny or tyrants? these are all questions I have. The only concrete answers are verses like Psalms 68:5 God is depicted here as a just ruler. In the ancient Near Eastern world a king was responsible for promoting justice, including caring for the weak and vulnerable, epitomized by the fatherless and widows. Since we are Christians meaning “Christ like” (thank the roman pagans for the name we could have been called worse) than we are supposed to stand up in a just and righteous way for those who cannot defend themselves. Does this mean go to war? I’m not sure. I have just as many questions as you do. I hope I didn’t confuse you more, when the “itty bitty commity” conveins again after more deliberation on said subject I will send you the minutes from that meeting.

    Your Brother in Christ, Shawn

    By the way feel free to email me and read my blog once in awhile, actually on there is this silly political survey that was very much accurate for me personally so it will give you some insight to my politcal beliefs. It might surprise you that not all “white evangelical american males” are the same as certain political figures. I would be more than happy to discuss this with you on a more secure forum aka email.

  4. 4 Shawn B. January 5, 2007 at 6:26 am

    PS, I am going camping this weekend so please understand I am not blowing you off if you respond to this, I just won’t be around any computers until Sunday although I will try and check email and stuff at work between seeing patients. Speaking of, crap I need to get my fanny(butt) to bed it’s past 1am and it’s going to be a long day.
    Peace out girlscout, Yo brothah from anothah mothah 😉

  5. 5 kathryn January 6, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Hotel Rwanda was a tragic story. . I’ve read the book “Shake Hands with The Devil” by General Romeo Daillaire. . the Canadian commander . . .who is the real life Nick Nolte character in this movie. Compelling movie, book. . reality. . its hard to watch and become aware of such brutality.

  6. 6 emmsy January 7, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Shawn, I’m into my exam period now so may also be silent here for a few days! Once I get the worst of it over I’ll be back with a vengence!

    Kat – think I might pick up that book! Rwanda has been pulling on me for a while now, would like to learn some more.

  7. 7 Shawn B. January 10, 2007 at 2:47 am

    Alright young lady, it’s tuesday evening, for me atleast, and I have yet to see a new blog appear…by the way feel free to read my blog and comment there, you know that thing people do on other peoples blogs…

  8. 8 emmsy January 10, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Shawn! I’m back 🙂 Been reading your blog on and off, will try comment some more now. Thats me told, eh?!

    I wrote a post a while back (https://emmsy.wordpress.com/2006/12/11/prophetic-imagination) on ‘prophetic imagination’ which might help add to this discussion. Today I was talking through some of my thoughts/issues/learning points from this whole thought on war/peace etc, and she added a very interesting point. She recently read Brian McLaren’s The Secret Message of Jesus, which has some points on war in it. He makes the point that in an ideal world, yes, there would be no war – but we are living in a fallen world, and that sadly means sometimes we have to go to war. I was very grateful for this new perspective on it, however I guess I’m still wrestling with it… Is there no way we can avoid war? Someone once said “you can murder the murderer, but you can’t murder murder.” What would prophetic imagination look like here, today, in our situations? In Northern Ireland (where I’m from, by the way – you mentioned Omagh, did you know I was Northern Irish?)? In Iraq? In Rwanda?

  9. 9 Shawn B. January 11, 2007 at 4:21 am

    I found it somewhat ironic to read this comment today, reason being I just started reading “Simply Christian” by N.T. Wright. I was not aware, or knew for sure, that you were from Northern Ireland. But out of comments you have made and talking to a patient of mine, just Friday, who is from Edenborough I had made the deduction you were from Northern Ireland after she told me there is a fairy that goes across the water there. I think you had also mentioned your hometown previously which, me being the ignorant yank I am(I say this with sarcasm) thought it to be in Ireland and Glasgow to be in Scottland but was confused as to where you were actually from.

    That being said, I am going to try and not offend you by using refrences by N.T. Wright, who I think is English Anglican and not know what “denomination” you are, I would hope you understand I think that sectarian violence, especially in my own family (the church) is rediculous. I mentioned Omagh in a previous post as I knew that anyone from Great Brittain or Ireland would be familiar and it got my point across, it is also a story I am familiar with.

    I want to tell you something you might not know about me. I do not go to church. Let me re-iterate what my friend Brant had posted and Shaun had spun off of. I quit going to an organzed church about 3 months ago. I did this for many reasons, but to bring it to it’s basics you can read the post I did about “Answered Prayers”. I go to a “home church” if you need to label it. I am not opposed to going to an organized church, I just choose not to at this season of my life. If you would like to know more on why, feel free to ask any questions.

    Anyway N.T. Wright said this in the first chapter of “Simply Christian” which by this whole chapter is pertaining to our discussion, but I don’t feel like typing out the whole thing. but I will take two paragraphs that may sum some things up and I will expand on those.

    “…And now we have the new global evils: rampant, uncring, and irresponsible materialism and capitalism on the one hand; raging, unthinking religious fundamentalism on the other. As one book put it, we have “Jihad versus McWorld.”(whether there is such a thing as caring capitalism, or for that matter thoughtful fundamentalism. isn’t the point at the moment.) This brings us back to where we were a few minutes ago. ((I want to interject here and let you know he was referencing a part of the chapter “projection- that is, condeming someone else for something we are doing ourselves. Rebuking someone on the other side of the world(while ignoring the same problems back home) is very convenient, and it provides a deep but spurious sense of moral satisfaction”)).” The same thing is going on in the wider world. The rich use the power of their money to get even richer while the poor, who can’t do anything about it, get poorer. Most of us scratch our heads and wonder why, and then go out and another product who’s profit goes to the rich company”.

    He goes on to give many examples on injustices, ie apateid in South Africa, Turks killing millions of Armenians between 1915-1917, the Holocaust, even saying “…no body stopped Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda from killing eachother in very large numbers in 1994.” He then intern mentions the Christians who have sought justice in the most Christ-like way possible through means other than violence, ie Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce and John Woolman, Desmond Tutu is South Africa. All people who have been Martyred in the persute of justice through non-violent means.

    So I guess my assesment, through what I have read is this. I know we dream of a place that is just, I know we have it in us all that there be a place of equality, where there is no violence. I know Jesus lead this by example to change something without violence and I know this will all come to foition in the Kingdom of Heaven, but like you said in your post through prophetic-imagination it may be possible. So to sum it up, I;m still not sure how we are supposed to respond, but this has been an awesome learning experience.

    By the way, I was affraid of mentioning certain authors because of issues in your part of the world, until I clicked on your “church” link that took me to a Vinyard website, obviously where you go to church, and it excited me more than I can explain. When I left the “organized church” I left Calvary Chapel, the majority of the folks in my “home church” are either, Baptist, Calvary Chapel, or Vineyard(two of the men are former Vineyard pastors). I personally love Vineyard and the worship centered, spirit lead focus of their services. So everything I said in the second paragraph doesn’t really matter as my assumption is you are in fact not one of my catholic sisters. Are you a fan of the worship group “worship circle”? Anyway so yeah, I think you and I are on the same page way more than we might have realized previously. By the way, just wanted to let you know how much of a blessing it has been communicating with you, your are an awesome little sister in Christ.

    Peace, Shawn

  10. 10 emmsy January 11, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Sorry for the confusion there Shawn! Yea, I call Northern Ireland home I guess, born and raised there. Now living in Glasgow, Scotland, where I’m studying at university. I’m on the same page as you regarding sectarianism, violence and terrorism. It’s wrong and should not be used as a weapon against anyone. I can understand your frustration with organised church… I’ve been there bro! I grew up in a Presbyterian church, which is very traditional, and in fact would not agree with much of what Vineyard theology states. For a significant period of time, my ‘church’ was my close Christian friends at a commuunity centre I was involved with, going to church on a Sunday is what I did to keep my family at peace. Then by God’s grace I passed my driving test and gradually moved to Vineyard, which I would consider my home church now. The guys there have been a tremendous encouragement to me and continue to be so even though I now live in Scotland. In fact, the Vineyard church I go to here in Glasgow was the church that planted my home church, and they are still very connected!

    You raised a a very valid point about projection – I think we are all guilty of this in some forms. Brimlow raises this point in his book, What About Hitler (which I am kind of diving in and out of at the minute, set it aside over the exam period as it is a VERY intense book!) – we paint all our villians as a ‘Hitler’ nowadays, because Hitler is percieved to be the embodiment of evil. How fair is this? I think it also relates into the issue of hypocrisy – such as the UK having nuclear weapons but threatening war because Iran wants to maintain their nuclear weapons. To me, thats blatant hypocrisy. What if we took the first step by destroying our nuclear weapons?

    ” They will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.
    Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.”
    Micah 4:3b

    What if we actually started to see this happen?

    Your point about us wondering why the poor get poorer, then going out and buying another product off the rich companies – very valid also. Guess the quote kind of relates to that – that we think its awful it happens, but we do nothing to stop it happening. I believe very deeply that we have an obligation to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’. Sometimes thats just one small step, other times maybe its a big step God’s asking us to take. For me right now, I am wrestling with buying a new camera (well, second hand, but still a lot of money). It’s something I’m passionate about and I want to spend time/effort on getting better, but I’m at my limits with my current camera. However, I question how that affects my integrity – I have spent a long time thinking about poverty/homlessness in Glasgow, and feel like I want to live on as little as possible, and give as much as possible away… how does that affect my decision to spend £300 on a camera? Just a small illustration!

    Ditto to some of your comments also – have loved having this discussion with you, been great to bounce ideas of you and learn from your experiences and perspective. Thanks a million! I’ve never heard of the group ‘worship circle’? I have to admit a lot of ‘Christian’ music bores me slightly, far to similar musically… though there are exceptions to that!

  11. 11 lithgo January 12, 2007 at 10:03 am

    Hotel Rwanda is indeed a powerful film. Saw it with some international students when it came out which gave it some more perspective too.

  12. 12 emmsy January 12, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    Yea, I can imagine that would put a new twist on it! Any specific things you remember from it or their perspectives of it?


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