The way you cannot go to Krakow without going to Auschwitz, you cannot visit Kigali without educating yourself about the Rwandan genocide that took place in 1994. We had decided to learn and pay tribute to the fallen innocents by visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial (KGM) and the church in Nyamata.
Yes, those two days in Kigali were tough and no word could ever describe the way I felt at the KGM looking at pictures of slaughtered, tortured and violated Rwandans. Over 1’000’000 souls were hunted and exterminated by the same neighbors they used to like, a member of their families they used to adore… The thought that innocent peoples’ lives were once again taken in the name of an ideology was and is unbearable. The country was violently divided in two and the country became a slaughter house for 3 months, where violence became a daily ordeal, where no one was safe and where entires families were wiped out *sigh*
We spent our morning, reading facts, listening to our audio guide, looking at unbearable pictures and watching survivors’ testimonies. Tears couldn’t be stopped. I didn’t cry for the Rwandan innocents only. No, I cried because this non-sense and inhumanity keep happening all over the world. As I am writing this, people are being hated and killed for being themselves, gay, Muslim, Christian, too rich, too “pigmented” (hard to keep track what’s politically correct). This list is not exhaustive and my heart goes to any human being who suffer. I’m not naive nor utopian but I cannot help hoping for the triumph of love and tolerance. I therefore strongly believe that such remembrances places are a good start for people (myself included) to see what hate and intolerance mean: pain, destruction and death.
The church in Nyamata, South of Kigali, was also very emotional. It was different tho, there was no word really, no fancy presentations; the church was deserted and silent when we arrived. We were the only ones: the roof still bore the trace of the bullets that “flew” inside a place that should have been an asylum for hundreds of terrified souls and the clothes of the victims were left there for us to realize how many people lost their lives. I usually don’t believe in spirits but in such places, I always have the feeling that they are somehow around us, unable to leave and unable to forgive; most probably because I cannot understand how this can be forgiven or forgotten. This is why I’m always impressed with survivors who found the strength and in a way love in their hearts to forgive their neighbor, brother or friend who betrayed them. They are such inspiring human beings: they show and remind us that forgiving is the only way forward and as I traveled around Rwanda, seeing how they succeeded in forgiving each other and are now working with each other, I realized i need to work on my own forgiveness: I definitely want to be more forgiving to people who hurt me and to myself.
Those two days were emotional and educative and we are not done learning. If like us, you want to learn more about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, friends recommended “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda” by Philip Gourevitch.
Next stop: Western Rwanda!
Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!