Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Paul Rusesabagina acknowledges ovation after BYU Forum address. His efforts saved 1,268 Rwandans in his hotel.

PROVO — If people would simply use verbal skills instead of resorting to violence, the world would be a much better place, said Paul Rusesabagina, speaking at Brigham Young University's forum in the Marriott Center on Tuesday.

There was a large turnout for the event, with students, faculty and visitors filling three-fourths of the Marriott Center. Total count was 7,756 audience members. Average attendance for forums is 2,600, according to university officials.

Rusesabagina is the former general manager of the Mille Collines Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. The hotel was made famous in the movie "Hotel Rwanda."

"The only thing that can bring people together is dialogue," Rusesabagina said, speaking in a question-and-answer session after the forum.

"As long as people don't consider each other, they will never get anywhere. As long as people are fighting for power ... they will never get anywhere," Rusesabagina said.

He said it is sad and frustrating that others outside of Africa didn't know about the genocide. Students asked him what people can do to help. He said people can talk about human rights and discover the facts. "Stand behind the truth," he said.

Answering a student's question about how different the movie "Hotel Rwanda" is from reality, Rusesabagina said the movie is extremely factual but with "a little bit of spice." For example, in the scene where he talks to his wife on the roof, the conversation was correct — it just never took place on the roof in real life.

During his presentation, Rusesabagina said he hid 1,268 people in his hotel. It was 1994 when Hutus began killing their Tutsi neighbors.

"It was the beginning of an endless massacre — a genocide," he said.

He asked the audience if they remembered where they were on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers went down. He remembers exactly where he was when the killing in his town began. He was having dinner with his brother and wife.

Rusesabagina managed several times to talk or even bribe soldiers out of killing the people he harbored in the hotel. He said since then many people have asked him why he risked his life for these people.

"God took that decision from me," he said.

There were many times, Rusesabagina said, when he felt his luck had run out and he believed everyone in the hotel would be slaughtered. "I said to myself, 'This is the end,"' he said. But then something would happen and they would be spared.

"It is never the end," he said. "God has ways of saving his people."

The crowd gave Rusesabagina a standing ovation.

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