(Posted April 13, 2015)

Carl Wilkens
Carl Wilkens

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Carl Wilkens, a former humanitarian aid worker for the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Rwanda and the sole American to stay in the country after a genocide broke out in Rwanda in 1994, will speak on "building bridges to peace" and "working to create a world without racism, genocide or intolerance" at Juniata College at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 21, in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science on the Juniata campus.

The talk is free and open to the public.

Wilkens, his wife, and his three children were all living in Rwanda in 1994 when genocide began. As he heard radio reports from mission stations throughout Rwanda, Wilkens made the decision to stay in the country to try and help members of the Tutsi ethnic tribe, who were the victims of the genocide. His wife, Teresa, and their children were evacuated from Rwanda.

Working from the capital city of Kigali, Wilkens was instrumental in protecting one of the country's orphanages, meeting with Rwanda's Hutu prime minister to stop a massacre of children in the orphanage.

After the genocide ended, Wilkens' family returned. He and Teresa spent 18 months after the genocide in Rwanda helping rebuild infrastructure, as well as trust among Rwandans.

Wilkens returned to the United States in 1996, where he became a chaplain for a boarding school in Oregon. In 2008 the one-time aid worker decided to become an activist by traveling and speaking about what he saw in Rwanda. He believes others can empower people to take action and hold communities and elected officials accountable to prevent genocides and atrocities from happening.

Carl and Teresa Wilkens formed an educational nonprofit agency in 2008 called World Outside My Shoes to provide edicational and logistical support for fighting indifference toward genocide. In 2011, Wilkens wrote, "I'm Not Leaving," which is based on tapes he made to his wife and children during the Rwandan genocide. This year. Wilkens will release a documentary, also called "I'm Not Leaving."

Wilkens received the 2005 Medal of Valor from the Simon Weisenthal Center and the Dignitas Humana Award from Saint John's School of Theology.

Wilkens' story also was featured in the PBS documentary "Ghosts of Rwanda" and the radio documentary "The Few Who Stayed."

Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.