As I mentioned, the Genocide Museum and Memorials were tough. As you look through the photos, understand that this is only part of Rwanda's history. Yet, it became a defining moment in that history. Look understanding that the horrors are not what defines Rwandans; nor did it define these incredible people prior to the invasion of Western culture. During that invasion, Rwandans were subject to the brutalities of colonialism which, for them, meant a self-anointed "advance" government viewed the Rwandans as a primitive people and indeed as sub-humans, especially in the case of Belgium. That self-anointed advanced government dictated the environment that was left behind once independence from Belgium was granted. The Belgians did not want the conflict to affect them. Instead, with everything they did, over decades, they brainwashed the Hutu population to think of themselves as inferior to the Tutsi. It was the Belgians who created the great divide between two groups of people who, before colonialism, lived in absolute harmony with one another. Instead of focusing on the immediate aftermath of colonialism, think of the work that has been done since the 100 day Genocide of 1994 to bring that harmony back to its current environment.
Think of this. Today I saw a man whose leg had been chopped off at the knee. He walked along the streets with the aid of crutches. It's not uncommon to see such a sight knowing how that man lost his leg. I asked Edwin if there were any resentments for people like this man. Edwin said no because the man is still alive. He survived.
Personally, I can understand this type of reconciliation. Having been sexually abused by my biological father and abandoned by my mother who allowed it to happen, I have put that small space of time, approximately 14 years of physical abuse and 6 years of verbal and emotional abuse in its proper perspective of my entire life. I moved away from his home at 22, met my present husband of 47 years and have lived an extremely happy and rewarding life. I survived and then prospered. Thus, what happened to me was a blip in my entire history. Plus, as Mary Oliver's poignant poem has taught me: "Someone I once loved gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to learn that this too was a gift. " I wouldn't be sitting here typing this right now if it weren't for that box full of darkness. It made me who I am. I am thankful not for the darkness, but for the love, compassion and empathy that came from the darkness. When I am on my deathbed, taking my last breath, unlike the man who gave me that box full of darkness, I will look back over my life and smile as I reluctantly say, it's a good day to die. It will be because I will have lived a joyful, humane life. My reluctance won't come from regret. Instead, it will come from disappointment that this life is over, because I absolutely love life!
As I spoke to many of the adults who were children in 1994 and learned of their losses, I heard how many lost their parents, siblings and friends. Yet, I also heard hope in their voices. One young woman is the person who manages one of the most gruesome mass attacks in the Kigali area. Another was the man who drove us to the museum and memorial and even stayed with us while we toured both sites. Mansur was only a small boy when he lost his mum as well as other relatives. Yet, Mansur's smile is genuine and future oriented. Bless these adults who still carry the emotional scars of that terrible year, 1994.
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I wasn't expecting to tour the museum or any of the heartbreaking memorials which there are many. As I told Edwin the day after visiting all three, the photos and especially standing in the Ntarama Church with holes in the walls where the killers broke through and the School with its huge blood stain on the front wall of the school where the children, head first, were literally bashed against the wall, I was made to experience the genocide as I walked past the photos and the ghosts whose spirits still fill the sites. For me, the genocide became real. It was no longer something I read while being a safe emotional distance from the killings. Instead, I was in the thick of it which gave me an even greater appreciation for the Rwanda of today. I'm grateful for seeing the images of so many people lost for no good reason but insane lies drilled into the heads and hearts of the killers.
Especially difficult was when I walked into a small building on the site of the Ntarama Church and School. It was the building where coffins were stored as they were filled with the bodies of the over 1,000 dead. On the floor, on either side of the entrance, in the dimly lit room lay the clothes of the deceased. The site took my breath away. I only took photos at the museum and at the compound where the interim president, her husband and the ten Belgian military guards were killed. I didn't feel comfortable at all taking photos at the Ntarama Memorial. The young woman who manages the memorial lost her mother and all the rest of her relatives. She has a tough job to come to every day. She's a brave woman to do such a grim yet honorable job of protecting and commemorating all those who perished at that particular site for no good reason other than drummed up hatred.
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To learn more of that horrendous one hundred genocide, visit this site which is a site that will give you a thorough emotional knowledge of all the Rwandan people endured and continue to heal from.
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