Rwandese President Paul Kagame has been awarded with the Dr Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Award for Outstanding Friendship with the Jewish People from the World Values Network.
The award was presented on May 22 at the fifth annual Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala in New York, U.S. hosted by the World Values Network.
The event coincided with the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and paid special tribute to the late holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Laureate, Elie Wiesel, who dedicated his life to combatting genocidal ideology and attacks.
Wiesel’s son Elisha served as the night’s keynote speaker and delivered an emotional final Kaddish (mourner’s prayer), which is recited during the first year following a family member’s death in the Jewish religion.
The gala celebrated the organization’s commitment to promoting universal Jewish values and defending the State of Israel to mainstream and international audiences.
President Kagame was among individuals who received awards at the gala for their friendship towards the Jewish people and fighting genocide.
Kagame was honoured for his heroism in ending the 1994 Genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda. A Torah scroll, dedicated to the victims of the holocaust and the Rwandan genocide and bearing Elie Wiesel’s name was completed, with Elisha Wiesel writing the last letter, and plans for a new anti-genocide center was announced.
The night also featured Derek Black, a former white nationalist who renounced his racist upbringing and family orientation after meeting Jewish friends in college who showed him that the goodness in man has no link to race, religion, or culture.
Due to his courageous and exemplary shift in beliefs and for redirecting his life towards valuing and loving all people equally, Black received the Elie Wiesel Award and a round of thunderous applause. His fellow honoree was Matthew Stevenson, the Jewish student who reached out to him.
At the event, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach urged the approximately 700 in attendance to take actions in line with Wiesel and advocate against genocide, mass murder, and human rights abuses.
“The Bible is clear: Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of your neighbour,” Rabbi Shmuley said. “The responsibility of the powerful to protect the weak is everlasting.”
While presenting the award to Kagame, Dr Mehmet Oz described him as a champion for human dignity and a fearless leader.
In turn, President Kagame told his listeners that human dignity should be the driver of everything and that Rwandans take friendship with the Jewish people to be natural because of their shared history. He urged everyone to oppose hatred.
“Hatred can never be justified, irrespective of whatever grievance one may hold. It may not be easy but it is our responsibility to keep this corrosive emotion in check and out of public affairs. More generally we must always endeavour to be different from those who adhere to ideologies of hatred,” he said.
He told the audience that efforts to deny and trivialise the Genocide against the Tutsi were on the rise across the globe despite all the evidence.
“We must come together to confront this serious threat and ensure that it does not take root in any society,” Kagame said.
He said Rwanda was ready to cooperate with the International Genocide Centre established by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, one of the curators of the event, to tackling denial of genocide and the holocaust.
“Wherever we can we will also contribute to protecting others who are at risk,” he pledged.