This past Sunday, my handbag was stolen out of our parked car. We were gone for ten minutes, only to return to a smashed up window, shards of glass everywhere and a missing bag. Phone, IDs, credit cards and keys – all gone. Since then, I have gone through various cycles of self-blame, should-haves/could-haves and feeling violated. This on top of trying to manage the daily physical pain of my illness was wearing my mind out. I kept digging myself in deeper into the mire of uncategorized misery.
Wanting to keep my mind somewhat occupied, I set myself a couple of tasks. One was to try to reconnect with a couple of people in the past. As I set forth in doing so, I came across old emails and found this one I had sent out to friends years ago. Reading it, watching the video filmed in Rwanda, reminded me of how small my ‘misery’ is in comparison. It is not that what I feel is not valid. It is not that I should not be sad. But it is that if there is one who goes through a much rougher, darker time than I can smile brilliantly and find a way to cope with what life has thrown her way, then why should I not rise up in my spirit and move onward, upward? I was made aware of what truly matters and was humbled by the beauty of the human spirit.
Within two weeks that followed the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994, almost a quarter of a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred, men, women and children, hacked to death manually by machetes. The Rwanda genocide is now considered the most concentrated act of genocide in human history. The Soviet mass murder of prisoners of war during World War Two vies with it. Some, like Gérard Prunier, claim the number is much higher. He states: “the daily killing rate was at least five times that of the Nazi death camps.” Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide [Columbia University Press, 1995], p. 261.
I am reminded yet again that we have failed the people of Rwanda and the words “Never Again” were just that: words. The international community failed to act and even refused to use the genocide word in the early months. “During the early weeks of slaughter international leaders did not use the word “genocide,” as if avoiding the term could eliminate the obligation to confront the crime. The major international actors — policymakers in Belgium, the U.S., France, and the U.N. — all understood the gravity of the crisis within the first twenty-four hours even if they could not have predicted the massive toll that the slaughter would eventually take.” – Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch.
‘On April 7, 2000, the sixth anniversary of the outbreak of the genocide, Belgium’s prime minister apologized for the international community’s failure to intervene. Guy Verhofstadt told a crowd of thousands at the site of Rwanda’s planned memorial to the genocide that “A dramatic combination of negligence, incompetence and hesitation created the conditions for the tragedy.” (Hrvoje Hranjski, “Belgium Apologizes for World’s Inaction During Rwanda Chaos,” Associated Press dispatch, April 8, 2000.)’
from March, 2008
In the wake of genocide in Rwanda, the families of killers and survivors live side by side in communities trying to sort through the process of justice, and all in an atmosphere of poverty. “I Saw What I Saw” is about former school teacher turned singer Sara Groves’ experience in Rwanda. She says:
“I saw so many things there that changed me. Some boys were playing with a ball made from banana leaves. It was January, and memories of Christmas were fresh in my mind. My kids are good kids, and we work on being grateful, but that scene gave me clarity about ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. Another day at lunch we saw prisoners walking through town. Only a small group of perpetrators of the genocide are still imprisoned. 60,000 prisoners have been released back into the community due to the inability to bring justice at that mass level, but there have been no acts of retribution to those prisoners. Rwanda is following the model of South Africa for reparations that says, “Without forgiveness, there is no future.” To see that kind of forgiveness lived out is life changing.”
I hope as you watch this beautiful video, the eyes of your mind and heart be opened. May your being be inspired, may you know what love truly is and what YOU are made of. And may you and I rise to fulfill that for which we were created for.
‘Your courage asks me what I’m afraid of, your courage asks me what I’m made of and what I know of love, and what I know of God.’