Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Remembering Rwanda

Front Cover

Yesterday began a week of remembrance for the unspeakable events of twenty years ago in Rwanda.  Ethnic violence erupted in that African nation which resulted in the deaths of 800,000 people, most of them civilians. The majority of those who died in this genocide were Tutsi, murdered by Hutus in a terrible orgy of incomprehensible one-on-one violence where neighbours cut down neighbours with machetes until they were exhausted from the physical effort. In some cases spouses murdered spouses because they were from the other ethnic group.

I remember speaking from the pulpit during this dark 100 day period, imploring folk to contact the Canadian government to intervene. But the international community failed Rwandans. General Romeo Dallaire was there and warned of the impending tragedy. His pleas went unheeded and he did not have the UN resources to make a significant difference. He has suffered every since because of what he saw and could not do.  The Americans had no stomach for intervention after the debacle of Somalia but Bill Clinton has admitted to the failure of the United States and other nations to prevent the genocide.

Despite the lasting pain there has been recovery and reconciliation in this country. There are tremendous stories of forgiveness which are hard for me to even imagine. Yesterday CBC's The Current ran a touching piece about Canadian Shyma Gilbert, a teacher, who saved the life of Rwandan Leo Kabalisa, also a teacher,  who lost most of his family. Her ingenuity, including creating a fictitious conference to which he was invited to get him out of the country, was remarkable. http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/04/07/saving-leo-a-rwandan-teacher-an-ontario-teacher-and-the-lie-that-saved-his-life/
On the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, an Ontario school teacher Shyrna Gilbert and the Rwandan teacher Léo Kabalisa she helped save, reflect on his escape from one of the worst massacres in human history. (CBC)

Shyman Gilbert & Leo Kabalisa

Do you remember the horrors of Rwanda? Can there be true hope, forgiveness, reconciliation out of such pain?

Nyamata Memorial Site 13.jpg


roger said...

I do remember the horrors of Rwanda, and unfortunately there seem to be very similar horrors in a number of other countries. Perhaps not to that scale, but devastating and tragic nonetheless. Countries like Central Africa Republic and Syria come to mind immediately.

Talk about the ultimate test of forgiveness. I know that has been a subject of your sermons, which are always thought provoking. I really don't think I'd have it in me to forgive such horrors.

janet.rice said...

How can we forget the horrors of Rwanda, and the impact on brave Canadian, Romeo Dallaire. AnnaMaria Tremonte's piece on the Current was indeed touching. Read Naomi Benaron's novel "Running the Rift". Her research included "Shake Hands with the Devil".