Monday 7 April 2014

Rwanda - the 20th Anniversary of a nightmare

(The following painting is Copyright to fine artist Michele Neethling - thank you for sharing this with us Michele! The following blog post is linked up with She Loves Magazine, a great magazine to connect women.)
There are few words to describe the reality that faced Rwanda in the winter of 1994. Between April and June 1994, over 800 000 people, namely those belonging to the Tutsi tribe, were brutally murdered by members of the Hutu tribe. Over a period of just one hundred days - close to a million people were dead and 6 million were displaced. While numbers may shed light on the brutal reality of the killings, witnesses and survivors are the true testimonies of the horror of what we now call the Rwandan Genocide. What many who know me, do not know - is that I met and taught a Rwandan survivor, English.
Strange are the ways of God - in how He brings us face to face with the things He wants us most to feel. I am eternally blessed and eternally grateful that I have met and taught both Rwandan survivors and Koreans who gave me an understanding of North Korea, that most do not have (this is a story for another time). When I walked in to the classroom 2 years ago, I had no idea that I was teaching 4 people whose backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds would be so different. I was called in by a large company to train their staff for 3 months in English. I love training in English, language is such a powerful way to impact peoples lives and to use it for empowerment and overturning slavery - this is the very essence of my heart.
I set aside time that day to allow the students to introduce themselves, both to me and to one another. Men and women (all four of them) took turns at introducing themselves. Until a very quiet man directly in front of me stood up and said "my name is..... and I am a Rwandi." He sat down and smiled, respectfully and somewhat patriotically. My mind froze at what he just said. His accent was thick and he battled with English, he was about mid - forties, so I gathered he had been in the genocide. I decided to move the class on but before I could, a little Zulu lady on my right gasped and bolted out "where you in the Genocide?" Silence fell like a mushroom bomb. All eyes were fixed on him.

"Yes I was, and I fled to South Africa." 
That was all that lesson had in store for us and while he did not speak about Rwanda at all or the Genocide, I did gauge with him and learned that he had been uncovering a lot in his country before the Genocide began and that he had lost most (if not all) of his family members. He had decided to start a new life in South Africa, he had enrolled in university and decided to start over. He was very calm, very respectful and very smart but underneath I sensed a boiling pot of anger and who could blame him?
On the other side I have met Holocaust survivors, 4 to be exact. Everytime they shared their testimonies, they mentioned Rwanda and the pain they felt at the "holocaust" that happened there. Even as I write this, tears fill my eyes because I wonder at the brutality of human beings and the wickedness that so easily pervades mankind's heart, its is tiring.
I also heard a Rwandan man once share that to stay alive he hid in a banana tree for 100 days. Many people did - but some grew weary and tired and eventually fell out of the trees. Their bodies were dragged away and they were killed.
Today, while we may look back and acknowledge what happened, many are still suffering the effects of what happened. Survivors and peace-keeping forces still suffer with the reality of Post-traumatic Stress and intense fear because of what they saw in 1994.
For me reflecting on Rwanda is like looking in to a mirror but not seeing yourself, seeing what is behind you. The Genocide of 1994 is in the past but its still in the present and in the future. For the lives of those facing similar horrors in other countries - like Korea, and for those who have been left behind to pick up the shattered pieces of their broken hearts and worlds. When we look in to a mirror - we can get so self focused, we look to see ourselves but essentially for me, a mirror reflects the reality of what is around us and what is behind us, it reflects the moment caught in the present. I want to ask you to gaze not only in to the Genocide or the holocaust but in to yourself.... WHAT would you do for another? When is it time to stand up for another? I want to leave you with a song by Brooke Fraser called Albertine about Rwanda. Please take the time to listen... may God lead us all to search our hearts and to stand up wherever He is calling us....

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