Wilkens to Recount Stories from Rwandan Genocide

Posted: April 15, 2013

Carl Wilkens, former head of Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA) in Rwanda, will speak on Monday, April 15 at 7 p.m. in McShain Performing Arts Center at Rosemont College. Wilkens’ lecture is titled, “Ability to Respond — Eyewitness Stories from the Rwandan Genocide.” Wilkens’ books will be available for purchase and he will participate in a book signing after the event. The lecture is free and open to all and sponsored by the Institute for Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility at Rosemont College.

Wilkens, a humanitarian aid worker, was the only American to remain in Kigali, Rwanda, once the genocide began in 1994. Each day Wilkens ventured out into streets crackling with mortars and gunfire to bring food, water and medicine to orphans trapped around the city. His choice to stay and help resulted in preventing the massacre of hundreds of children over the course of the genocide.

Wilkens will speak about his experiences and personal first-hand accounts of life for the people of Rwanda as their country collapsed, as well as stories of those who stood up against the killers. He will also focus on the courage and resilience of the people he witnessed facing horrendous choices in the middle of the unimaginable slaughter. The core of Wilkens’ message is that “stories and service” are our most effective tools to build peace and eliminate “us and them” thinking.

“Carl Wilkens' story is truly remarkable. It is difficult enough to imagine oneself in the midst of a developing genocide; it is even more difficult to imagine remaining amid the carnage in order to do what one can to protect as many defenseless victims as possible. But for Mr. Wilkens there was no real alternative; this was his community, these were his friends and colleagues. His experience is a testament to the power of courage, compassion, and the resilience of the human spirit,” says Alan Preti Ph.D., director of Institute for Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility.

Wilkens returned home in 1996 and was a high school teacher until 2008 when he decided to dedicate his life to public outreach. He and his wife Teresa formed World Outside My Shoes (WOMS), a non-profit educational and professional development organization committed to inspiring and equipping people to enter the world of “The Other.” “The Other” may be under our own roof or on the other side of the globe.

After Wilkens was featured in a 2004 PBS Frontline documentary, "Ghosts of Rwanda," about the Rwanda genocide, he began to receive invitations from teachers around the country to come and share his experiences with their students. During the 2011-12 school year, Wilkens gave a total of 249 presentations to 27,450 people in 76 middle and high schools, 41 universities, and 40 civic and faith groups.

Wilkens’ humanitarian work has been recognized with several awards including the Dignitas Humana Award from Saint John’s School of Theology Seminary and a 2005 Medal of Valor from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

In 2011, Wilkens released his first book entitled, I'm Not Leaving: Rwanda Through the Eyes of the Only American to Stay in Kigali During the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, based largely on tapes he made to his wife and children during the genocide, not knowing if he would ever see them again.

To register click here. For further information about this event, contact Dr. Alan Preti at 610-527-0200 or apreti@rosemont.edu.

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The Institute for Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility was launched in August 2011. Its aim, closely related to the historic mission of Rosemont College, is to understand and promote the essential connection between ethical leadership and social responsibility. Under the guidance of its director, Alan A. Preti, Ph.D., the Institute works toward this goal through research and scholarship, teaching and practice, and leadership.

Last Updated: April 15, 2013