Last year, my friends and I were watching a movie (Sometimes in April) about the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, and they said at the end:”This is a violent movie.” However, it does not even show, in my understanding, 2% of the violence that happened during that Genocide and times that followed it. I will try to say something about that unspeakable episode of the History of humanity. Or should I say “inhumanity”! I do not promise to put any scholarly order in the following article.
Every year, since 1995, from the 7thApril to the 4th July, the entire world commemorates the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. On the 7th April 1994, started what was going to be known in the history of humanity as the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. In 100 days, more than 800,000 human lives of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were lost. Most of those were butchered by their neighbours, their family members who did not want to be associated to them and some others by indoctrinated strangers. Since then, many have been those who refer to the Rwandan Genocide in their speeches, lectures and debates. But do they really grasp what it was all about and how indescribable it is?
On Easter day, the 3rd April 1994, two of my best friends and classmates, fraternal twins, were baptised. Their mother had taught us in grade 3. After the Holy Mass we had a reception in the hall of the Cathedral. Both of them, their brother and their mother were killed a few weeks later. They had been hiding for weeks and were discovered hiding in bushes sometime during the genocide. Hundreds of thousands of people were butchered in churches where they had gone to seek protection. Sometimes they were betrayed by their parish priests, superiors, or pastors. Some pastors chose to die with the victims; some others were among on lists of those to be killed. At the end of the genocide, more than one million and a half of Rwandans went to exile in the then Zaire (today Democratic Republic of Congo). Hundreds of thousands died in refugee camps.
|Genocide memorial in Kibeho. Brs. Gustave and Peter.
The general and obvious feeling of all the persecuted Rwandans in that time was that they had been abandoned by a careless world. They might not have known that their number was going to join other numbers of slaughtered populations found in History books on genocides, natural disasters, “just wars”, colonialism, slavery, etc. They never thought about studies that would be done about their fate, controversies would rise about the gravity of the “events’ and some people might deny that they actually died.
The survivors still struggle to understand how humanity works! The fact is that most of them have completely lost trust and interest in international justice and look sceptically at political and religious leaders who attempt or have strived to give moral lessons since then. Most of the survivors have adopted a few habits that became addictions, some of them destructive, some others less harmful; this is a kind of escape from reality and a hope to create another reality different from the horror they lived through. Fortunately, many other chose to pray about it and became very spiritual people.
It is difficult for people who saw death under its ugliest colours to know that they have to keep on “living”. The usual sentence that one hears is:”God spared your life for a reason!” But does this kind of ‘magical’ sentence work? What about their eradicated families? The daily problems they have to live with knowing that their chances to find solutions are insignificant. One confidence: the scars of wounds endured during those times reopen easily, even after going through the most experienced counselling. It is always better to know that one will live with them and the best and most helpful attitude would be to teach the survivors to accept that sometimes human beings become inhuman but that they [the survivors] are victims and not perpetrators. That is because most of the surviving victims do often think that they were guilty of some wrongdoing. It is also dangerous to let them deal with their problems alone.
While Rwandans do not claim that their suffering is superior to any other people’s, they do expect, at least, a common respect towards their beloved departed ones. At the same time, they are always grateful for the world to still welcome them with their wounded personality and the obvious incurable affliction that the 1994 Rwandan genocide left them with. However, they must make a superhuman effort to keep the air and normal not to scare people around them. And their inner pain, which is like lava from a volcano boiling inside, they should let escape a few bubbles at a time in order not to ignite themselves and their environment. It is a heavy burden and Rwandans are able to carry it on them with dignity and serenity.
|Genocide Memorial in Kibeho. Photo by Br. Gustave Ineza OP
|What is the use of discussing the Rwandan genocide on a blog that is supposed to share about spiritual experiences and preach a little bit? In my understanding, it helps us to grasp the danger of polarized identities, especially when they look at other identities as evil. That applies well to civilizations, religions, races, ethnic groups and any other major identities that could lead people into violence. The major question for the Rwandan Christians today is: what is the most important message of the Gospels and do we really focus on that and strive to love each other instead of looking for divisive ideas and doctrines?
Let us pray for the victims, both deceased and those alive, of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and for the world to care about suffering populations and, most of all, for people to know that their primarily identity is humanity as they were all created by the same God. A true love of humanity and of its creator would not allow such a thing to happen. Otherwise, how could we claim to be saved, civilized, and more intellectual than other living things if we sit and watch our brothers tearing each other apart and do nothing?
After genocides, the world always says these famous words: “Never again!” For once, may it say them with seriousness and may we, as Christians, join in with love, faith and hope.