“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
What makes a hero? Is it a particular character trait? Are some personalities better suited to being heroes than others? Or could anyone be a hero, given the right circumstances? A research project of the Ohio State University was set up to try to answer these questions.
OSU needed a case study to track how heroes emerge and behave. They chose to study the behavior of individuals involved in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.
I remember with horror watching the events of the genocide unfold on the television news. The event which triggered the genocide was the assassination of Rwanda’s president, who came from the majority Hutu people. Within hours, Hutu people were attacking and massacring members of the minority Tutsi people. The numbers of dead are uncertain, but at least 500,000 were murdered, and possibly as many as 1.3 million – possibly 70% of the pre-genocide population.
But there were some Hutus who sheltered Tutsis. Why would they do this? Remarkably, some of the Hutu rescuers were also killers; six of the people studied had murdered Tutsis who they did not know, while sheltering Tutsis who they did know.
The study concluded that the nature and motivations of heroes are complicated. But they also noted that a very large majority of rescuers were what the researchers called “people of faith”. But the only faith recorded was Christianity. Those who have given their lives to the Lord, while being imperfect vessels, are capable of extraordinary compassion and bravery, which cannot be explained by humanity, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: I fear how badly I might behave in difficult circumstances, Lord, but pray that You would enable me to be a good witness to Your care and mercy, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ref: Ohio State University. “Who becomes a hero? It is more than just a personality trait: Social factors shaped who rescued people in Rwandan genocide.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180326110141.htm>. Image: Kigali Genocide Memorial Center, Rwanda; Public Domain image.
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