now that i have seen, I am responsible
faith without deeds is dead
now that i have held you in my own arms,
I cannot let go till you are
These are lyrics from a song , Albertine, about a young girl from Rwanda by Brooke Fraser, and they sum up my feelings about Rwanda after experiencing the genocide memorial in Kigali and another memorial in a small town, Nyamata.
Let me start with the genocide memorial...
Yesterday afternoon, I experienced the genocide memorial in Kigali. It was very moving and incredibly informational. It started with the history of the genocide and specific things that contributed to the horrific events. I saw pictures and read small facts about people and places. They also have the only video of any events that occurred during the genocide. They had interviews that I could watch of survivors, telling about what had happened to their parents, children, and brothers and sisters...a room of pictures of victims...a room of clothes of victims, including a child's superman bedsheet...and finally, a room of bones. The events of the genocide become more and more real with every room. The last part that I walked through before leaving was the hardest and saddest for me. It was full of children who had their lives taken from them for no logical reason. There were poster-sized pictures of these children but the hardest part for me was their short biographies listed below...they gave things like their favorite food, favorite past time, family members, and at the end, how they were killed. It really made the genocide more real to me than it has ever been. These children were brutally killed, basically because of where they were born, and it's only by God's grace that none of us were born here.
While the memorial provided me with so much information, the church at Nyamata made the genocide real. Nyamata is a small town about 30 minutes outside of Kilagi that saw many deaths in April 1994. The Catholic church we visited was where 10,000 people went for safety, only to be handed over to the killers by soldiers who were supposed to be guarding the area. Now the church is covered with piles upon piles of bloodstained clothes and mass graves with coffins holding the bones of more than 25 people each. Only 7 people survived, and one of the young men walked around with us and shared some of his story. He was only 8 then and went to the church to hide with his older brother. When the killing started, his brother told him to lie down and pretend to be dead. His brother who was killed with a machete laid on top of him so that his blood could cover him and save him. And yet, this man, Charles, can forgive the men who did this to him and his family. He and many others live their lives surrounded by people who were involved, and they preach forgiveness and reconciliation. It is an amazing thing to be able to talk to someone like Charles.
I have been talking with others here about what could possess men to do such terrible things, things so horrible we can't even imagine, and our only possible answer is the devil. He took over these men's minds and bodies. My other question is this: What can possess men to be able to forgive and live peacefully together after something as horrible as the genocide? The only possible answer is God. God's love and grace is so evident here. I feel as though I can't look around without seeing it, and that is what I will miss the most about Rwanda.