Mercer University’s debate team won against the national team of Rwanda Oct. 19.
Junior Taylor Cole and Assistant Debate Coach Kyle Bligen debated against Kellia Kaneze and Mekha Rousseau as part of the Rwandan team’s American tour.
The topic of the debate was “In the case of genocide, is forgiveness a better response than justice?” as requested by the Rwandan team, according to a Mercer University press release.
The question hit close to home for the Rwandan team, as some had personally been affected by the mass genocide in 1994. Rousseau told his own story about how one side of his family contains perpetrators and the other victims.
The Mercer team argued in support of justice as a solution, while the Rwandan team argued for forgiveness.
Kaneze spoke about how the generation after a genocide requires forgiveness to exist as a unified group and how genocide is a collectivist ideology.
“Justice does not necessarily focus on tolerance,” she said.
Cole advocated justice as a solution to genocide, first citing the history of the word, and then connecting justice and forgiveness.
“We can see a relationship between justice and forgiveness,” Cole said. “Justice is an agent of forgiveness.”
The Mercer team won with a score of 3-2. After the debate, the Rwandan team gave the Mercer team a traditional Rwandan painting as a thank you.
“Debate is about bringing people together,” Mercer debate team coach Vasile Stanescu said.
For Cole, debating the Rwandan team at first was intimidating.
“We quickly sort of got over that, in realizing that debate is not at all about competition between two people, it’s about competition of ideas,” she said. “Debate does more to unify us then it does to separate us.”