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Aid worker who sheltered people during the Rwandan genocide to share lessons from the tragedy during March 18 lecture at Whitworth

March 10, 2010

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Between April and July 1994, the world watched in horror yet refused to intervene as the mass slaughter of Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus by the Hutu-run government unfolded in Rwanda. The rival ethnic groups had been entangled in a civil war for several years before tensions boiled over when the Rwandan president was assassinated. The ruling Hutu regime immediately retaliated by butchering an estimated 800,000 of their fellow countrymen over the course of about 100 days. By the time other countries started to intercede and a Tutsi rebel group defeated the government and took control of the country, roughly 20 percent of the total population of Rwanda had been massacred.

During the genocide, Carl Wilkens served as the country director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Rwanda. He will share what he learned through that experience when he presents, "Seeing Ourselves in 'The Other' – Life Lessons from the Rwanda Genocide," on Thursday, March 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth University. He will present the third lecture in the 53rd annual Great Decisions Lecture Series at Whitworth. The series features five speakers who focus on current political, cultural and economic subjects of interest to the international community. The public is invited to attend the lectures free of charge.

When his co-workers at ADRA were evacuated out of Rwanda as the violence escalated, Wilkens decided to remain behind as the only American there to shelter people from the genocide. He stayed in Rwanda for the next 18 months, helping to rebuild the country after the conflict. Wilkens now lives in Spokane and works in the U.S. to promote awareness of genocide in places such as Darfur, and he helps empower grass-roots activism with a global mission through the organization he founded, World Outside My Shoes.

"Carl Wilkens brings a unique perspective to the discussion of genocide and other human rights violations because of his experience in Rwanda during and after the genocide there," says Patrick Van Inwegen, an associate professor of political science at Whitworth. "In addition, Carl reflects one of the key elements of Whitworth's mission – to serve humanity – in that he has taken that experience and used it to serve others. He created an organization to raise awareness about human rights violations and to provide relief to those who suffer from them."

In addition to the March 18 lecture, Great Decisions lectures will take place on April 8 and April 22. The lectures will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be held in Weyerhaeuser Hall's Robinson Teaching Theatre. For information on upcoming lectures, please call (509) 777-3270. Great Decisions 2010 is sponsored by the Whitworth Political Science Department.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Barbara Brodrick, academic program assistant, political science department, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3270 or

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or