By Brent Buttler –
BOOK: I’m Not Leaving (2011)
AUTHOR: Carl Wilkens
n his first person account of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Carl Wilkens challenges the reader to not only end genocide, but also the selfish attitude that leads to it.Genocide
, to those familiar with the term it brings to mind stories and pictures we would rather forget. Yet we must remember it if we are to put a stop to it and prevent it from reoccurring, and that is one of the goals of this book. I’m Not Leaving
comes from a unique perspective in that Wilkens was the only American to remain in the country of Rwanda while the Hutu tribe sought to exterminate the minority Tutsi tribe. You will find very few statistics in this book because numbers are so large as to have very little impact on our lives. Rather this book focuses on the stories of the people involved on both sides of the divide. This paragraph from the book summarizes this thought well.
“While the stories written here happened during the genocide, this book is not really about genocide. It is more about the choices people made, actions people took, courage people showed, and sacrifices people gave in the face of genocide.”
His story begins with probably the most difficult choice anyone would have to make – Carl chose to put his young family in a departing truck while he stayed behind in a country on the brink of disaster. He goes on to talk about how his life was constantly in danger despite his association with the humanitarian organization, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA
), how so many others risked life and limb to help those who were less fortunate (mainly orphans), and how he often received assistance in his work from the very people carrying out the massacre.
However, these stories almost never happened. Soon after the killing started, a murderous mob appeared at the gates of the Wilkins’ home with the intention of killing the entire family. This mob was fended off not by a show of force, but by stories. Little grandmothers and mothers with babies in their arms told the mob how the Wilkinses helped them when they had problems and how the Wilkins children played with their children. Carl and his family had reached out to those who were different than they were, and because of this their lives were spared.
I’m Not Leaving flies in the face of a world embroiled in an “us versus them” mentality (Something I wrote about recentlyas well as some time ago). I had the privilege of hearing Wilkens in person and talked about people having the attitude of “the other” in the sense of how much better the world would be if the other were not in it. He said that we all are in danger of harboring such thoughts, and we need to realize that there is a world outside my shoes.I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. You can order a copy of it here.
Brent Buttler blogs at Educational Litter. This review is republished by permission of the author.