We had an unexpected start to our vacation in Rwanda. I was so happy to be on vacation and have a 30-hour journey behind us…then we decided to go to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali (the capital city of Rwanda). We were both moved to tears. The memorial is quite beautiful considering that there are over 250,000 people buried in this single mass burial site (they are still burying human remains).
In a nutshell, Belgian colonists historically reinforced tribal differences between the dominant Hutus and the minority Tutsis. Using tactics common to all acts of genocide, the Hutus used propaganda to demonize Tutsis. It is suggested that the military had planned the genocide for a long time and used the shooting down of the President’s plane as the catalyst for the horrific events of 1994. In the space of 6 weeks, neighbor turned against neighbor. The killings were most brutal – 800,000 people perished and 250,000 were displaced. The world stood by and did nothing.
In this Catholic country, the Tutsis took refuge in churches only to have their Hutu priests murder them. When I asked why there are no dogs in Rwanda, I was told that during the genocide the dogs learned to eat human flesh and had to be euthanized en masse.
Great way to start a vacation, eh? Yet out of this incomprehensible tragedy, the Rwandan people have emerged united and strong in their commitment to “oneness” and forgiveness.
It has taken me almost 50 years to realize that seeing others as not the same as us or lesser than us is indeed an act of violence against our own nature – we are all in this together or we all fail.