I attended the genocide memorial today and it’s hard for me to answer the question, “How was it?”  How do you answer such a question?  There are mixed feelings in my heart.

A heavy heart.  It is just so hard for me to believe that such a horror actually took place ten seconds walk from my home.  4,000 dead in just the little neighborhood that I live in.  Then there were another 796,000 in the rest of the country.  Not to mention the hundreds of thousands dead in refugee camps and sabotages after the initial horror.  Just when Tutsis thought their nightmare had ended their perpetrators moved back into the house next door.

Never before in modern memory had a people who slaughtered another people, or in whose name the slaughter was carried out, been expected to live with the remainder of the people that was slaughtered, completely intermingled, in the same tiny communities, as one cohesive national society.

–We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families

A heart desperate for reason.  My heart asked the question over and over today, “God, where is the sense?”  There’s so much I don’t understand about the situation.  A hundred questions with no answer.  There’s terror when I realize that this is not the first time that atrocities of this nature have occurred and that invokes the fear in me that it probably will not be the last.  An Auschwitz survivor, Primo Levi, said in 1958, “If there is one thing sure in this world, it is certainly this: that it will not happen to us a second time.”  Haunting words to remember as I walk through an exhibit showing the strong and steady uprise of one group of people over another.  I wonder what could have possibly possessed the Belgian colonial powers to behave the way they did upon their departure.  I question the integrity of the entire international community to be able to ignore such a massive horror.  I wonder why the people of Rwanda put enough blind faith in their political leaders to murder their neighbors and kill their church family.  So many questions that will barely even begin to be touched in the short time that I’m here.

A horrified heart.  The amount death was massive and the method was brutal.  I will not go into detail, that is something you can research for yourself if you want to know.  What I will say is that the amount of horror during the genocide is only half the story.  There is so much pain to consider after the fact.  The thousands of orphaned children.  The women with AIDS.  The people who lost their entire families.  The fact that the people of Rwanda are now living next door to one another again is absolutely phenomenal.

A hopeful heart.  Reconciliation is always a difficult concept to grasp, but the people of Rwanda have done it.  Through community trials where perpetrators come forward and admit what they’ve done, some receive mercy and others “get what they deserve”…whatever that is.  No punishment seems suitable to fit these crimes.  Somehow, though, Hutus and Tutsis are once again living, working and worshiping side by side.  They each pray to the same God and it makes me see the scope of God in our world.  Even though I have only been here for a week, I firmly believe that the state Rwanda is currently in would have been impossible had it not been for the support of the church.  The church was absent during the genocide, so it is unbelievably encouraging that they have stepped up and are doing the work they are doing.  AIDS victims are no longer rejected, but supported.  Victims have forgiven their perpetrators.  Would this work really be possible without God?

We can all take a lesson away from Rwanda.  Though the pain here is great and the roots of sorrow still run deep, there is hope in the eyes of the people.  They are holding their dark past with them, not as a grudge, but as a reminder that they should not let such an event occur again.