Surviving Genocide Finding Humanity

No matter how you feel, you CAN make it. If you can’t believe this, believe that your descendants will.

Therese Umuhoza from Rwanda tells her inspirational story of triumph and career satisfaction. It’s a story that challenges readers to question their inner lion.

Therese reflects on life and adversity  

Not only has her world been shaped by deep feelings about what humanity is about – but she truly cares about the world around us. Her career interests focus on emerging zoonotic diseases which threaten human and animals health or both. She combines both skills in biotechnology and epidemiology to be able to understand diseases in an experimental and population model.

I am Therese, this is my story.

I reach well defined goals by five principles:




communication and


Questioning the Logic of Conflict

Many years ago, my country experienced what I call “Natural human conflict”. Are you asking yourself, how people can hate others enough to  decide to obliterate their very existence?

This was the question I repeatedly asked myself. Since I had no concrete answer, I formulated a theory which I called natural human conflict.

My Theory of The Journey

I defined my theory as an ideological process accommodated in human beings driven by power, fear and uncertainty.

This process of ideas, compelled by power, fear and uncertainty, induces a variety of human conflict. In a retrospective history of my home country Rwanda, ethnic segregation led to the 1994 Tutsi genocide and destroyed generations. The history is documented in several books and recorded in different Rwanda museums and memorial sites.

 After setting up my theory, I progressively kept following the subject of human conflict via media, politician speeches and debates with friends. A French historian, psychologist and political scientist, Jacques Sémelin, validated my theory with his research recorded in the book “Purifier et détruire”.

Why Do I need a Theory?

The theory describes all levels of human engagement and action – from mental conception until it is transformed into an act.

I realised I needed a theory, or a mindset to live by and achieve success and meaning. I understood that there have been human conflicts, big and small-  for centuries, and they will always be occurring and reoccurring.

What mattered most to me was to find the best way to confront this either on an individual or grand scale and to explore purpose.

Overcoming an Ideology of Hatred

When I was twelve years old I realised that a lot of things had happened shaping my country, family and me. I was born in a country where the ideology of exterminating my tribe was deeply entrenched.

My family had no right to study, to work or to live due to ethnic segregation.

This forced people into exile for many years.

Based on my family lifestyle and in comparison with many others, I tried to understand how people can persist in such situations to achieve success.

I was fortunate to survive the genocide with my parents, brothers and sisters even though most of my family members and friends perished in it. After surviving what we called the M-Months, for us, it was the time to start from scratch for my family and many other Rwandans.

Finding Our Humanity

Every evening my family members gathered together to discuss and reflect on the past. I started being curious about my parent’s career and social lifestyle.

My curiosity made me question how my father ended up being a satisfied carpenter and my mother a successful farmer – without ideology of the ethnic segregation. My parents had no chance to earn degrees because they had no right to be educated.

It was a struggle to not only build their lives, but their careers too.

When I discussed his career dream with my father, he described something that could bring well-being to humanity within a free environment. I connected his words to “Health and independence”.

According to my mother’s way of living, humanity must live in peace. She applied the principal when forgiving that person who killed my brother. I was too young to discern the reason of her decision making.

Purpose and Life

As I grew up, I understood from my experience and observation that it is all about purpose and what drives your life. What are your ‘driving centers‘?

My theory became validated by the famous president of my own country “Paul Kagame” when he introduced the Rwandans a book named “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren in 2006. I received the book as a gift from my best friend. Every word confirmed my theory and principals of lifestyle.

My father didn’t realise his dream career. But he managed to do a career which made him proud.

My parents live with purpose and this drives them. It’s this same sense of purpose which headed me to become a scientist with success and satisfaction. The blogger of Keep Climbing, Leonie Hall wrote that “when you have purpose you take ownership”. I wish to add that purpose helps you to achieve success and feel satisfaction.

Purpose is built through generations, and can be started from inexplicable impulse – “purpose”. I know my purpose.

What is your purpose and its driving centres?

This is the beginning of my story about what drives me.

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  1. Dr Awwalu Baba Usman

    Your testimony of survival is good enough to put some sense in them that don’t believe in the reality of things happening around the world, as an over comer of conflict interest of our modern time and generation, with time things will be more clear. More grace to you as a woman of courage, virtue, and compassion to follow up your dream even in tough situation. Continue to be a winner even in your current better environment.

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