enoch

In 1994, Rwanburindi Enoch and his wife were a relatively prosperous Hutu couple, living a quiet and fulfilling life in their village in Rwanda.

But within the span of a few traumatic weeks, Enoch's country was rocked by a genocide so swift and brutal that almost 20 percent of its population was eventually wiped out by militants.

Over the course of approximately 100 days, about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in Rwanda. With ethnic tensions and fear of persecution running high, many Hutus either adopted the Hutu Power ideology or turned a blind eye to the violence around them.

But Enoch and his family refused to partake in the violence. Instead, he invited several Tutsis -- all of them severely injured -- to stay at his home.

When his small house got too full, he built another home on his property for them to take shelter.

"Many times the local authorities forced me to appear before the burgomaster and every time it happened my family would lose all hope of seeing me again," Enoch said. "My neighbors rushed to advise me to evict the refugees from my home as soon as possible but I told them, 'I know that the only relationship between them and me is that we pray in the same congregation but I cannot chase God’s people from my house.'"

Leora Kahn, an activist and executive director of PROOF: Media for Social Justice, said that when she met Enoch, she was blown away by the depth of his courage.

"People were killing Tutsis all around him and he chose not to do that. The dignity in this man and his wife -- it's pretty extraordinary," she told the Huffington Post, adding that when the civil war ended, Enoch -- branded a traitor by his community -- lost everything.

Enoch's powerful story of bravery is one of 21 stories of ordinary heroes and 'rescuers' from genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia and Europe in an exhibition curated by Kahn and organized by PROOF that opened at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne, Australia, this week.

From a woman who risked her life to shelter Jewish children during the Holocaust, to a Cambodian soldier who helped hundreds escape the Khmer Rouge by creating a safe passage to Vietnam, the exhibition -- titled 'Rescuers: Picturing Moral Courage' celebrates the bravery of these everyday heroes who stepped up despite the staggering odds stacked against them.

Each hailing from the 'enemy' camp, Kahn said that these ordinary citizens highlight the good that can be found in people even in times of trauma and violence.

"The people we interviewed are people like you and me -- they're just regular people. They're farmers, taxi cab drivers, workers, fathers, mothers -- and that's very important. You don't have to be a diplomat, or have a lot of money. Anyone can be an upstander," said Kahn.

For more photographs and stories of these heroic rescuers, click through this slide show:

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  • Andree

    The Holocaust saw the mass murder of approximately 6 million European Jews during World War II. At the time, Andree was in her 20s. She was one of many brave women who risked death to save the lives of Jewish children by hiding them. "When you are in your 20s, you're not afraid," she said. "I had the feeling that I was doing something useful, and it's very helpful to know in life that you are doing something useful."

  • Jan Karel Wijnbergen

    Jan Karel Wijnbergen was just 14 when he was asked to join the Resistance movement against the Nazis. Like Andree, he -- then barely older than a child himself -- risked everything to save the lives of Jewish children. Wijnbergen remembers picking up children in and outside of Amsterdam and traveling with them by train to other -- presumably safer -- locations.

  • Borivoje and Ljubinka

    In July of 1995, Serb troops and paramilitaries led by Ratko Mladic descended upon the village of Srebrenica, systematically killing, raping and deporting thousands of Muslims. Borivoje and Ljubinka had always lived in harmony with their Muslim neighbors. Putting their safety at risk, the couple welcomed a fleeing Muslim man and his family into their home -- giving them a room to take refuge in. Borivoje and Ljubinka then helped the man, his wife and their three children escape through their territory to Sarajevo.

  • Mina

    Though she knew that her Serbian neighbor was spying on her, Mina risked her own safety, as well as that of her family, to hide and take care of a badly wounded Muslim man who had escaped execution. Mina, whose four children were also in her care, said that saving the man's life had been an obvious choice. "Why did I save him? I knew that the same fate could happen to my children, to my sons, and it was totally normal to help a man in trouble. I didn't separate him from my own children," she said.

  • Silas

    In 1994, after the death of Rwandan President Habyarimana, Hutu military and militia groups began rounding up and killing all Tutsis they could capture. When the Rwandan genocide began in 1994, Silas was a Hutu soldier in the army. However, as he watched scores of Tutsis being murdered, he found himself unable to understand the violence and the butchery. "[I] did not quite understand how these innocent people could be killed with no apparent reason," he said. Risking his life, Silas began smuggling Tutsis over the border to Burundi. He rescued more than 50 people before his fellow soldiers caught on, and he, too, had to flee for his life.

  • Kamegeri Augustin

    "It is true cowardice to not do anything for someone dying right in your sight," said Kamegeri Augustin. Despite the risk to his life, Augustin sheltered a Tutsi woman whose family had been brutally murdered. He sent her -- along with other Tutsis -- to live in a small forest of bee trees that their aggressors were too afraid to enter.

  • Ngen Ngon

    The Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979, in which approximately 1.7 million people lost their lives under the Khmer Rouge regime, was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. Ngen Ngon risked his own life to help many of his fellow Cambodians escape torture and death. Ngen Ngon remembers going to a Buddhist temple and helping the people detained there. "I broke the door of the temple to release the women. Some of them could not jump over the fence of the pagoda because they were exhausted. But I helped them run away," he said.

  • Duch Keam

    A soldier before the Khmer Rouge began in Cambodia, Duch Keam was part of a band of resistance fighters who helped over 700 hundred people escape to Vietnam through a treacherous jungle. An expert at mine clearance, Keam risked his life time and again to ensure safe passage for his fleeing countrymen.



All photos and information related to the exhibition was provided by PROOF: Media for Social Justice. For more information about the exhibit, which will be returning to the US in a few months, visit the organization's website here.

H/T: Reddit