Every Tuesday afternoon, the Parliament’s business opens with time for reflection, when an invited speaker shares a perspective, usually on an issue of faith. Last Tuesday, time for reflection was led by the Reverend Lesley Bilinda, vicar of St Andrew’s church, Fulham Fields, who addressed the chamber on the theme of avoiding polarisation and division by treating one another with dignity and respect. She illustrated her argument by reference to the Rwandan genocide, of which she had first-hand experience. As she explained, when the genocide began in April 1994, she had been living in Rwanda for five years and was married to a Rwandan Anglican priest, who was a Tutsi.
She began by mentioning that she had recently watched the Parliament’s television channel because she had been told that there was to be an item on the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. She was referring to Iain Gray’s members’ business debate on the subject, which was held back in May. In opening that debate, Mr Gray described how around 1 million people were slaughtered in a 100-day period. He went on to recount his visiting the country shortly afterwards as an Oxfam employee and how haunting it was to find
“a country empty of its people—one part dead and the rest having fled.”
He said that he burned with shame that his country
“failed to act to save those lives”,
and his message matched that of the Rev Lesley Bilinda:
“The final lesson is that genocide ends with machetes and murder but that is not how it begins; it begins with the words of hate.”
You can read these powerful speeches in the Official Report, or watch them being delivered on the Parliament’s TV channel, at the links below: