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.

The project, titled the Erna and Arthur Salm Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove, was dedicated to victims from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Mideast and North America.

The Salms, for whom the sculpture is named, fled Nazi Germany shortly after widespread attacks against Jews in November 1938. Their son, David Salm, donated funds to the project in hopes of remembering the past and drawing attention to genocides still occurring.

The genocide memorial project was the dream of Elaine Leeder, dean of social sciences at SSU who managed the project into a reality.

"Unfortunately, there is now a field of study called comparative genocide," she said in her opening remarks.

Speakers representing the Armenian genocide in Turkey, Japan's ruthless tactics against the Chinese during World War II and the Jewish Holocaust also addressed the crowd. State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, also spoke.

Nsengimana perhaps summed up sentiments when he said, "Never again."

You can reach Staff Writer Nathan Halverson at 521-5494 or Check out his blog at or on