Genocide survivor discusses forgiveness, tolerance

 The Geneseo Activities Commission hosted a presentation from Rwandan genocide survivor and LGBTQ-plus advocate Daniel Trust to a packed lecture hall in Newton Hall on Oct. 23.

Trust shared his experiences as a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, including the death of his mother at the hands of his father’s people. His brother then adopted him, and yet another abusive relationship evolved.

Trust fled from the violence and eventually made it to the United States. Once in the United States, Trust went to high school and graduated, despite attending one of the most impoverished schools in Connecticut.

Quite possibly the most compelling part of Trust’s presentation was his positive outlook on life. One might think that a person would be cynical and negative after experiencing the horrors of living through the Rwandan genocide and the resulting familial violence, but Trust proved that conception wrong.

“I would constantly cry for help,” Trust said. “I came to the understanding that whatever happened in Rwanda was in the past; that’s how I was able to move on and forgive my brother for what he did to me. I have chosen not to allow the negative things that have happened to effect who I am today.”

Despite the different lives each person in the audience had led, his advice resonated with everyone. “Letting go of the past has helped me get where I am today,” Trust said. “That’s a lesson everyone can learn.”

Despite being able to move past the past in many aspects, Trust acknowledged that he has not entirely healed from his experiences. “I’m still working on forgiving a lot of things that happened,” he said. “I still find it difficult to maintain meaningful relationships.”

Trust has done more than just forget the past; he created the Daniel Trust Foundation. According to its website, this foundation “advises and helps teens plan their education and careers with meaning and purpose through mentorships.”

It was clear that Trust is very passionate about his scholarship recipients, saying, “We don’t just give them money. We are there for them 24/7 to help them with anything they need.”

Trust referred to the recipients as his “scholars” and said that they are all very passionate about giving back and helping their communities, as is Trust. “My scholars mean the world to me,” Trust said.

Activities Commission Contemporary Forum programmer junior Olivia Wolfram said she picked Trust because of “what he stands for. He has come from so much that his story was dimensional.”

The students in attendance were responsive and interested during Trust’s question and answer period. “Be thankful of those relationships that mean something to you,” Trust said. “Really appreciate them if you have someone who cares for you.”

Despite the heavy topics Trust discussed, the atmosphere leaving the lecture hall was positive, energetic and hopeful.

“I thought the event went very well, we appealed to many different audiences and [Trust] was so honored to have the privilege to speak to Geneseo,” Wolfram said. “The students that attended were clearly very interested in his story. He was a great speaker and I hope he decides to come back in the future once his foundation and career have expanded more.”