TACOMA, Wash. — Michael Barnett was staff to the United States mission to the United Nations during Rwanda's civil war in 1994, when hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were slaughtered by Hutus in a matter of months. Though the U.N. knew of the situation, it did nothing to intervene, and its officials were convinced that their inaction was the proper response.
Barnett wrote the book Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda (Cornell University Press, 2002) to chronicle the U.N.'s involvement in Rwanda. Now a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Barnett will give a lecture of the same title Thursday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Kilworth Chapel at the University of Puget Sound. The event is free and open to the public. It is part of the series of Swope Lectures on Religion, Ethics, Faith, and Values.
In the book Barnett argues that U.N. indifference to the genocide was driven not by incompetence or cynicism but rather by reasoned choices cradled by moral considerations. He suggests that the culture of the U.N. recast the ethical commitments of well-intentioned individuals, arresting any duty to help, and he questions whether it is possible to build "moral" institutions.
The Puget Sound bookstore stocks Eyewitness to a Genocide, and Barnett will sign copies of the book following the lecture.
The Swope Endowed Lectureship was established at Puget Sound through a gift from Major Ianthe Swope in honor of her mother, Jane Hammer Swope. The lectureship is intended to promote broad discussions, critical thinking, and ethical inquiry about matters of religion, such as its role in public life, issues in contemporary spirituality, ethics, and world religions. Past speakers in the series have included Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Oscar Arias, author James Carroll, Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, and Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
For more information contact the Puget Sound Center for Spirituality and Justice at 253.879.3374 or the Wheelock Information Center at 253.879.3419.
by Greg Scheiderer