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Survivors gather at Sonoma State University for dedication of memorial grove

  • Chamnan Renz, left, and Kim Chea perform a traditional Cambodian dance during the dedication of the Erna and Arthur Salm Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove at Sonoma State University on Sunday, March 29, 2009.

Nearly 200 people gathered Sunday at Sonoma State University to dedicate a memorial art sculpture to victims of genocide.

Representatives from six groups of genocide victims and war atrocity survivors addressed the standing-room-only crowd from the edge of a pond behind the student union.

Joseph Nsengimana, Rwanda's ambassador to the United Nations, spoke of a horror suffered by his people in 1994.

"More than 1 million Rwandans died in 100 days," he said. "As a survivor, I feel honored to stand here."

The genocide had its roots in a civil war drawn down ethnic lines between the Hutu and Tutsi people living in the country.

The other five speakers all spoke while standing in front of a large cylindrical sculpture built by a university professor.

Buddhist monk Masarin Visothea represented the approximately 2 million Cambodians who died under the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979.

Brenda Flyswithhawks took the stage to represent the tens of millions of Native Americans who died from disease or violence after European immigrants and descendants engaged in systematic campaigns to remove them.

The 10-foot-tall glass sculpture was created by Jann Nunn, an associate professor of sculpture at SSU. She worked on it for three years before its unveiling Sunday. It is built of 5,000 pieces of glass and is to be illuminated by internal lights from dusk to dawn.

A series of bricks inscribed with survivor and donor names leads up to the sculpture.

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