There is no other place on earth that I have experienced and witnessed such a deep level of joy than in Rwanda. And the source of this joy seems to transcend both logic and reason.
As many of us may or may not know, something deeply evil took place back in 1994. The 1994 Genocide was the product of decades of racism, and of people in power spreading hate media, manipulating youth. In about 100 days, about 1,000,000 people were brutally murdered, raped, dismembered or all of the above. That’s 10,000 murders per day. Bullets were in short supply, so most of these acts were conducted using primitive garden tools, or clubs fixed with nails. Friends turned against friend, and neighbour turned against neighbour in fear of their own lives. These rank among the darkest days of humanity.
I was again reminded of this tragic event when our group visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda. This was the second time I visited the memorial. This time was different for me. I seemed to see more and this time I had a more difficult time keeping my emotions inside. I think my jaw was in a permanent ‘dropped’ position as was literally again in complete shock at the fact that this actually happened in my own lifetime while the rest of the world seemingly ignored this.
What blows me away the most is that this happened less than 25 years ago. The country of Rwanda today is thriving. It’s expanding, growing and progressing. Through programs and organizations like Africa New Life and many others, children are getting educated, and fed. Through sponsorship, families are given hope and a chance at life.
Since the genocide, the new Rwandan government has also done some critical – and quite unconventional – things to facilitate this progress. Perpetrators that were on the ground level of the killings were allowed an opportunity of confession in exchange for freedom. This is partially because the country at the time didn’t have enough judges, lawyers or courtrooms to put everyone on trial nor did they have enough time give everyone locked up due process. Along with this new (and seemingly undeserved) freedom the confessed killers also offered information to where mass graves, and bodies were buried. This began the healing, closure and somehow the momentum to move forward. And still to this day there is face-to-face reconciliation between victim and perpetrator.
Today throughout North America, and Canada racism still runs ragged. Canada has a past history of mistreatment with the First Nations, and reconciliation is still taking place. There are things that happen all over North America that shouldn’t happen today. However if Rwanda can turn things around in only 25 years, surely we in North America can do this as well.
“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.” – The Dalai Lama
Rwanda wants to be the new Jewel of Africa. An international example of peace, progress and forgiveness. An example that all of us can look at and see possibility. Racism and hate culture cannot survive.
You can hear it when talking with the Rwandan kids. You can see it in the progress in the cities. Students are dreaming for a wonderful future. Mothers see hope. Reconciliation is happening. The impossible is possible.
How does peace flourish? I think it starts with me and you just like it did in the months following the Rwandan genocide. It starts with reconciliation within our own families. Maybe it starts at Thanksgiving dinner, maybe inviting over your neighbour whom you may know nothing about.
Friends, my blood is the very same colour as your blood and the sooner we can understand that we are all equal, the sooner we can experience peace in this world and our lives.
Let’s look at the amazing Rwandan example of healing after tragedy and see how we can apply that to our own lives.