October 31, 2001
Former U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Speaking at WhitworthAs Americans continue to come to terms with the September 11 terrorist attacks, a veteran United States diplomat who witnessed another brutal chapter in the history of human conflict will bring Spokane a message of "Justice, Forgiveness, Peace: The Moral Challenge of Genocide."
David Rawson, former U.S. ambassador to Mali and Rwanda, will speak at 6 p.m. Nov. 13 in the Seeley G. Mudd Chapel at Whitworth College. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning at Whitworth and Partners International, a Spokane-based international Christian organization that supports indigenous ministries in the least Christian regions of the world. Rawson also will be speaking on "Peacemaking in a Violent Age" at Spokane City Forum at 11:45 a.m. on Nov. 14 at First Presbyterian Church of Spokane. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (509) 777-1555.
Early in Rawson's 1993-1996 tenure as ambassador to Rwanda, a civil war re-ignited between the country's two main ethnic groups. More than 800,000 people died in just 100 days in what still stands as the only "official" genocide so designated by the United Nations. Rawson managed the evacuation of all Americans in Rwanda and then returned to direct U.S. operations delivering humanitarian aid to Rwanda's suffering people.
Whitworth Psychology Professor James Waller, a nationally recognized scholar and author on race relations and genocide, says Rawson's perspective and message are especially relevant to individuals seeking to understand the September 11 attacks and those who carried them out. Waller addresses the same issues in his upcoming book, Children of Cain: How Ordinary People Commit Extraordinary Evil, to be released in early 2002 by Oxford University Press.
"Our community needs to be reminded that policy-makers, despite their best intentions, are not always accurate in assessing the political will of the American people," Waller says. "Unless we make our will known, however, we all remain duplicitous in the decisions and actions of our political leaders. There is probably no better time for us to hear this message than right now."
As America's point person in Rwanda during the days leading up to and following the civil war, Rawson stands at the nexus of a smoldering controversy about what Americans knew of the mass killings, when they knew it and what, if anything, could have been done to minimize the loss of life. Answers to these questions have sobering implications for American foreign policy.
"Whitworth students and the larger community may be asking, 'What constitutes a moral response to evil acts such as genocide and terrorism?'" says Steven Downey, vice president for communications and marketing at Partners International. "Ambassador Rawson, as a diplomat and Christian, had to address this issue when he was in Rwanda. And now we, as a nation, have to address the same issue in light of our declaration of 'war.'"
Rawson, now professor of political economy at Spring Arbor University in Michigan, served in a variety of diplomatic roles during his 26-year career with the U.S. Department of State. Most recently, he was U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Mali from 1996 to 1999. During his tour there, he supervised a major development program, the largest Peace Corps presence in Africa, and the launch of a regional peacekeeping capacity. Prior to his appointment as U.S. ambassador to Rwanda, Rawson served as deputy chief of mission at U.S. embassies in Madagascar and Somalia and as a political officer in Senegal, Mali and Rwanda. He also served the State Department as director of West African affairs and as senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Foreign Affairs.
Born in Addison, Mich., Rawson grew up in Burundi as the son of missionaries. He studied at Malone College in Canton, Ohio, and later returned there to teach after completing a Ph.D. at American University. He serves on the board of directors of Partners International and is a member of the Mande Studies Association and the American Foreign Service Association. He has written extensively on foreign affairs, most recently authoring a chapter on the International Tribunal for Rwanda.
Founded in 1943, Partners International works with indigenous Christian organizations in more than 50 countries around the world to grow and strengthen churches through holistic witness. In 2000, Partners International collaborations led to the establishment of 1,400 new churches and the delivery of development and relief aid to 240,000 people.
The Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning was established at Whitworth College to serve as a catalyst for changing the lives of faculty, students, clergy and laity by assisting them in better understanding how Christian faith and learning can be integrated. The center promotes scholarship and professional development through a variety of research projects, public lectures and certificate programs.
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The college enrolls 2,100 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.
James Waller, professor of psychology, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steven Downey, vice president for communications and marketing, Partners International, (509) 343-4044 or email@example.com.
Greg Orwig, director of communications, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.