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The Passion of Hotel Rwanda

found via The Gutless Pacifist is this article - The Passion of Hotel Rwanda about Hotel Rwanda, which I've written about previously. Columnist Brian McLaren raisese the issue - if the Christian community rallied for people to see The Passion, why aren't they rallying for people to see Hotel Rwanda? It's a good question, but I'm afraid the answers may be obvious....

Some excerpts:
"A year after Mel Gibson's movie, I found an even more Christian film, one that most Christians are ignoring...
For whatever reason, when I walked out of the recent film Hotel Rwanda, the story of a hotel manager who saves more than a thousand Tutsi refugees from Hutu-led genocide, this thought wouldn't leave me: If we really had the mind and heart of Christ, this is the movie we would be urging people in our churches to see...
Then I go back to the film again. I think about Tutsi and Hutu locked in a cycle of fear and aggression, insult and revenge, attack and counterattack. And I also think of the Twa (the literal "little people" of our world) whose story is so little known, who suffer in the crossfire between the larger, more powerful tribes. And I think about how our community of Christian believers is divided by tribes also caught in long-standing cycles that seem to defy reconciliation: Protestant, Catholic; liberal, conservative red-state, blue-state; contemporary, traditional; postmodern, modern; seeker-driven, seeker-sensitive; purpose-driven, tradition-driven, and so on.
And I go back to the film, and think of the hotel and its manager, himself a Hutu, but one who loves Tutsi as well. I think about his distinction early in the film between family (who deserve help) and non-family (who one can't worry about), and how in the course of the genocide, he comes to see that all neighbors are family. And I wonder why so few of us see our neighbors in the Christian faith in anything close to a similar way, not to mention our non-Christian neighbors who may also be modern-day prostitutes, tax collectors, and Samaritans. I wonder what kind of tragedy it would take to bring us to the insight gained by that hotel manager...
In fact, I can't think of a more worthwhile experience for Christian leaders than to watch Hotel Rwanda and then ask themselves questions like these:

  • Which film would Jesus most want us to see, and why?
  • Why did so many churches urge people to see Gibson's film, and why did so few (if any?) promote Terry George's film? What do our answers to that question say about us?
  • What were the practical outcomes of millions of people seeing Gibson's film? And what outcomes might occur if equal numbers saw Hotel Rwanda as an act of Christian faithfulness?
  • In what sense could Hotel Rwanda actually be entitled The Passion of the Christ?
  • What do we make of the fact that a high percentage of Rwandans who participated in the 1994 genocides were churchgoers?
  • What do we make of the fact that a high percentage of the Americans who ignored the 1994 genocides (then and now) were and are churchgoers?
  • What kind of repentance does each film evoke in Christians in the West? Why might the kind of repentance evoked by Hotel Rwanda be especially needed during these important days in history? "

    Ok, now I've quoted half the article. But I think it is worth the read! And a movie worth the watching.


Brian C Merrell said…
I have yet to see the film, but I am quite interested in doing so. I think that there is quit a lot of value in promoting the love-thy-neighbor principles that (presumably) are expressed in the film; certainly more so than the violence and pain that appears to be a major theme in the Passion of the Christ.
John said…
I'll take a crack at McLaren's questions:

1. Why not both?

2. (a) Because the film was unapologetically Christian. (b) Dunno. I've barely heard of it. Was it screened in major markets? (c) We’re not ashamed of being Christians. We don’t make excuses for what we believe.

3. (a) People accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, thereby avoiding damnation. (b) Possibly to promise to never let a disaster like this happen again. Oh, wait! It is!4. Dunno. The reference is lost on me.

5. Terrible! Let’s hang them!

6. I think that it’s had an impact – after all, the American people decided not to allow this disaster to repeat itself in Iraq, and intervened. And, hey, look! There are terrible human rights abuses in Iran and North Korea. Paging the 82nd Airborne! No more Rwandas!

7. (a)The Passion of the Christ exposed people to the awful price that Jesus Christ has to pay for our sins. People confessed their sins. (b) It is important to remember Rwanda, as a symbol of our failure to act. Fortunately, we have heeded that call and invaded Iraq. Let us hope that we continue to remember the Lesson of Rwanda.
Beth Quick said…
sorry, John, but i disagree with your comments, or at least the tone of them. Yes, Hotel Rwanda has had wide-release. Maybe not to every last theatre, but up here in Central New York, at least. And with several award nominations for film and acting, it has some buzz.
I do agree with you - Sudan has some striking similarities to Rwanda. So why are we in Iraq and not there? Why are we talking about Syria and North Korean and Iran and not Sudan? I think those are questions we need to wrestle with. I fear there aren't enough 'incentives' for us to care about Sudan.
I think McLaren's questions about church-goers seek a more thoughtful answer than a flip, "terrible - let's hang them" that you suggest. why react so negatively to someone urging us to give a second thought about something, to search our souls? After all, McLaren hardly suggests that you can't watch and enjoy The Passion, or use it to teach, if that's what you want - his main complain is with the hype/marketing around it. But perhaps we could reach people, as well, with a movie that is not overtly and unapologetically Christian, that doesn't raise concerns of Anti-Semitism, that isn't primarily viewed by people who already consider themselves Christians, but one that can nonetheless bring about conversion, repentance, change of heart and mind. I know it touched me.
John said…
I'm sorry for any snarky tone.

I wasn't being flippant when I said "hang them". I meant it. Those who engage in genocide should be hunted down and punished. I'm not being flippant -- I'm agreeing with McLaren! What happened in Rwanda was terrible, and we did nothing to stop it.

Why are we in Iraq instead of the Sudan? If we were in the Sudan, would you be asking why aren't we in Iraq? We'll get to the Sudan as soon as we can. What's happening there is terrible, but North Korea and Iran should be our priorities, unless the Sudanese are on the fast-track to nukes and I haven't heard of it. Call me cold-blooded, but I consider protecting our cities from being incinerated a higher priority than protecting the victims in Dafur -- and the clock is ticking. The Bush Admin. must bear some blame for (a) not striking NK two years ago (b) not striking Iran now and (c) not adding a few divisions to our ground forces so that we could deal with Sudan now.

I'll put seeing Hotel Rwanda on my to-do list, although I may have to wait until it comes out on video.
Beth Quick said…
thanks for the clarifications, john. hard to read tone of voice in text, isn't it? if you do so hotel rwanda, you'll have to let me know what you think of it.
as for where to focus our attentions, i guess i'd rather focus on the known current victims of a situation like sudan than the potential unknown possibilities, like north korea. who knows what the future holds, though? certainly not me!
thanks for your thoughts.
Ono said…
I haven't watched Hotel Rwanda because I cannot bare to watch it. I have a problem focusing on tragedies that I cannot control or make a dent in. I may just be afraid of having my conscience slay me.

But, I do agree that it should be promoted in Christian circles, especially since Catholics (I'm one) were in the thick of the attrocities.

BTW, I did not see the Passion. I have little use for the film.
Anonymous said…
Dear friends,

As I was reading this article. I wonder what the community of Christ and churchgoers would think of a survivor, a Christian and maker of a film documenting on the genocide like you can view the clips on the following links:

Three presidents appear in the documentary, shaking hands or in sorrow. So many other scenes also are intercut with the story such as burial in the rain or strike against the french government in the capital city. Sometimes it is a workshop on spiritual reconciliation.

Bill Clinton acknowledges the Rwanda's genocide as his personal failure and "one of his greatest humanity failure" under the tone of Mea Culpa! A very strong sequence.

But he is not the only one to ask for forgiveness. The filmmaker confronts his parents' murderer:

My name is Gilbert Ndahayo.
My father is among the three people he killed.
I'd like to know how he killed them.
Did you choke them?
Did you poison them?
Did you burn them alive like others?

Ndahayo is shown in close-up and in profile, confronting the person charged with crimes against humanity.

The killer says "please forgive me. I can't call you brother anymore but ... please forgive me."

What is depicted in the film brings to mind "we all believe we're children of God" as George Bush testifies after visiting one of the memorial site where more than 300,000 innocent wasted lives are buried.

The filmmaker goes further by bringing the coffin of his grandfather. The priest who presides the rituals is a bit sad, and, confused:

We are "Children of God"; and
the departed ones "are called by God."
But how can we say that to victims of genocide?
God never called them.
They were killed by fellow human beings.
How did God call them?
Yet, we continue our tradition:
"they were called by God."
And we say: "God
knew about their deaths."

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