Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) hosted “100 Days of Silence,” a one-of-a-kind art exhibition on Tues. Dec. 2, 2014, coordinated by the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education (Chhange) at Brookdale Community College to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
The collection brings together works created by over 450 New Jersey students and includes more than 60 life-size human forms which illustrate students’ artistic responses to learning about the genocide, the silence of the world, and the importance of becoming involved, concerned citizens.
“These are powerful expressions by young people who are concerned about a genocide that unfolded while the world watched,” said Smith, a longtime human rights advocate in Congress and chairman of the House Africa and global human rights subcommittee. “The pieces in this exhibition remind us that each of the hundreds of thousands of victims in Rwanda was an individual, worthy of dignity, whose precious life was cut short, who the world should have done more to save. If we cannot do more to prevent genocides in the future, ‘Never again’ will only be lip service. When so many innocent lives are at stake, we must do more. While remembering a genocide often invokes feelings of horror, this exhibition reminds us that hope is also crucial. We must have the hope that we can defeat the evil that is at the root of genocides and we must follow it with the will to act.”
The 100 Days of Silence exhibit corresponds with the 100 days in 1994 when some 800,000 Rwandan men, women and children were killed by Hutu extremists. The title is a reference to the failure of the global community to intervene. A number of officials stopped by, including U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern, Chaka Fattah, Bobby Rush, Al Green, and Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora.
“The exhibit is a chance for students, educators and community members to reflect upon the human experience of the Rwandan people and the silence of the world,” according to Dale Daniels, executive director of Chhange. “It is a powerful statement from our children and our community about genocide and humanity.”
Originally exhibited at Chhange from April through August 2014, the 100 Days of Silence art exhibit will be on display Dec. 4 in the Rayburn House Office Building Foyer (first floor) from 4 to 7 p.m. The Rayburn building is located Southwest of the U.S. Capitol, bounded by Independence Ave., South Capitol St., First St., and C St., S.W.
Smith is co-chairman of U.S. Helsinki Commission and an Executive Member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.