Made it safely to Rwanda… Monday was spent sleeping. Tuesday was spent doing orientation for the volunteer program, followed by a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Rwanda (sadly) is best known these days for the 1994 genocide, during which the Hutus killed 1 million Tutsis in a 90 day slaughter. The memorial was a grim reminder of the time– with stories from survivors, photos and last possessions of the victims, and in the most depressing area, remembrances of individual children who were killed, including their favorite activities, foods, etc. It certainly wasn’t a fun way to spend an afternoon, but an important place to visit nevertheless.
While the genocide certainly had a huge impact on the country, I don’t believe that it should define it. The most amazing thing to me about Rwanda is how they have moved past the events of 1994. Immediately after the genocide the Tutsis, who had regained power, decreed there would be no more “Tutsi” or “Hutu”, just Rwandese. Instead of dwelling on the anger and bitterness they certainly had every right to have, they decided that the country as a whole would move on.
This was especially significant because the genocide was a crime of neighbor versus neighbor– the killers attacked their own villages, often killing those they had known for many years. And now, 17 years later, many of the perpetrators are being released from prison, back to the villages they came from, where they are living side by side with the families of their victims and the survivors they left behind.
The fact that this has actually worked– that violence hasn’t returned, and the Rwandese have genuinely moved on, is an incredible lesson in forgiveness and resiliency.