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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit

Lt General Romeo Dallaire: Canada’s Unsung Hero


By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Lt General Romeo Dallaire led the 1994 UN Mission to Rwanda where he saw 800,000 men, women and children slaughtered by extremists.  Before the genocide, Rwanda had been the largest recipient of Canadian aid proportionally in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

Abandoned during the 1994 crisis by the world community, Rwanda’s greatest advocate was one lonely Canadian, Romeo Dallaire, who forced the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide onto the world stage. “The people of Rwanda”, said Dallaire in his book/DVD Shake Hands with the Devil, “were not an insignificant black mass living in abject poverty in a place of no consequence.  They were individuals like myself, like my family, with every right and expectation of any human who is a member of our tortured race.”

“Too little and too late” summarized the response of the UN bureaucrats and the international power-brokers. Dallaire wrote in his book: “There was a void of leadership in New York (UN).  We sent a deluge of paper and received nothing in return; no supplies; no reinforcements, no decisions.”  The UN did produce numerous resolutions about Rwanda, but as Dallaire noted, “The resolution’s phrases were pure UN-ese: ‘having considered…express regret…shocked…appalled….deeply concerned…stressing…expressing deep concern…condemns…strongly  condemns…demands…decides…reiterates…reaffirms…calls upon…invites…decides to remain actively seized of the matter.’”

Dallaire sadly described the UN as “an organization swamped and sinking under the dead weight of useless political sinecures, indifference, and procrastination.”

In the midst of this betrayal, Dallaire stood strong and made a powerful difference in saving thousands of Rwandans.  As a man of deep Christian faith, Dallaire faced the reality of cold-blooded evil, but was not defeated by it.  In his acclaimed book “Shake Hands with the Devil”, Dallaire commented: “After one of my many presentations following my return from Rwanda, a Canadian Forces padre asked me how, after all I had seen and experienced, I could still believe in God.  I answered that I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil.  I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him.  I know the devil exists, and therefore I know there is a God.”

One of Dallaire’s chief way of saving Rwandan lives was in his intentional cultivation of the media.  “The media”, said Dallaire, “can be an ally and a weapon equal to battalions on the ground.” The CBC Radio show ‘As It Happens’, with Michael Enright, played a key role in waking up a very sleepy, apathetic Canadian population. Dallaire commented: “The media was the weapon that I used to strike the conscience of the world and try to prod the international community into action.”

Dallaire shows the gift of remarkable vulnerability in talking about his feeling and core beliefs: “My Christian beliefs had been the moral framework that had guided me throughout my adult life.  Where was God in all this horror?  Where was God in the world’s response?” He suffered deeply from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome upon returning to Canada, and has taken many years of counseling to recover.  Dallaire wrote: “I wanted to scream, to vomit, to hit something, to break free of my body, to end this terrible scene.  Instead I struggled to compose myself…”

Near the end of the Rwandan UN Mission, Dallaire was so exhausted by the trauma that he started to collapse internally: “…my manners and my sense of humour, two essentials of leadership, were fading fast…”   His own staff noticed that ‘The General was losing it’  and rightly concluded ‘…if I (Dallaire) wasn’t replaced, I would be dead in less than two weeks’  Dallaire vulnerably shared (in his book) “…how guilty I felt abandoning my troops before the mission was over, how guilty I felt that I had failed so many people and that Rwandans were still dying because of it.” Dallaire’s self-recriminations and ‘what ifs’ nearly ate him up inside: “After nearly a decade of reliving every detail of those days, I am still certain that I could have stopped the madness had I been given the means.”

“Why”, asked Dallaire, “were we so feeble, fearful and self-centered in the face of atrocities committed against the innocent?” Dallaire concluded that “We are in desperate need of a transfusion of humanity.”

May God give us that needed transfusion of humanity to which General Dallaire points.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the North Shore News/Deep Cove Crier

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

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-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

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Author: edhird

I was the Rector of St. Simon's Church North Vancouver, B.C for 31 years, from 1987 to 2018. Ordained in 1980, I have also served at St. Philip's Vancouver and St. Matthew's Abbotsford. My wife Janice and I have three sons James, Mark, and Andrew. I was Past President and Chaplain for Alpha Canada. While serving as the National Chair for Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada, I was one of three co-signers of the Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials For the past 31 years, I have been privileged to write over 500 articles as a columnist on spiritual issues for local North Vancouver newspapers. In the last number of years, I have had the opportunity to speak at conferences and retreats in Honduras, Rwanda, Uganda, Washington State, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Ontario. My book For Better, For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship, coauthored with Janice Hird, can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Better-Worse-Discovering-lasting-relationship/dp/0978202236/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1535555614&sr=8-1 My sequel Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit, with a foreword by Dr JI Packer, is online with Amazon.com in both paperback http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/097820221X/ref=redir_mdp_mobile and ebook form http://tiny.cc/tanhmx . In Canada, Amazon.ca has it available in paperback http://tiny.cc/dknhmx and ebook http://tiny.cc/wmhmmx . It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook). Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form. Nook gives a sample of the book to read online: http://tiny.cc/vj3bmx . Indigo also offers the Kobo ebook version: http://tiny.cc/kreonx . You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook: http://tiny.cc/1ukiox The book 'Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit' focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus' healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how North Americans can embrace a holistically healthy life. In order to obtain a signed copy in North America of the prequel book 'Battle for the Soul of Canada', Blue Sky, or God's Firestarters, please send a $25 etransfer to ed_hird@telus.net . Cheques are also acceptable.

2 thoughts on “Lt General Romeo Dallaire: Canada’s Unsung Hero

  1. Pingback: My most read articles | Edhird's Blog

  2. Pingback: The Legacy of Kofi Annan | Kyle Orton's Blog

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