Genocide Memorial Reflection
Upon entering into the first genocide memorial at the Kigali center, I almost felt a distance in my heart as it almost felt impossible to grasp the atrocities that have stretched across all corners of Rwanda. It feels overwhelming being so bluntly acquainted with the grief of this country upon our first couple of days here. We were told before leaving a rather perplexing statement that I could not fully receive, “we are all seeds of genocide.” We were told that the genocide here would no longer be some foreign monster that we had no relationship to but instead, we would see the potential that all of us have for evil apart from the grace of God. This confounding statement soon found its way into my reality.My first encounter with the sharp pain of genocide hit me as I watched “Sometimes in April” the second day after our arrival. I had seen that movie before and expected to be moved but I wasn’t ready to be as troubled as I felt while we watched it. I wept bitterly over how people could afflict such pain upon each other. It felt as though I had reached out and grabbed sorrow’s hand, which in turn filled my heart with an anger I couldn’t begin to comprehend. I questioned justice and God. I approached God lost as to who He was… are you a God of genocide? Yet, we spoke of the forgiveness that Rwandans have found for one another and I folded before Him, broken at His feet. I wondered how could this all be?
Upon my first visit to Kigali Memorial Center I had prepared for the worst and instead found this site to be much more mild than I was expecting. Almost to the extent that I could distance myself from the grief that I knew would soon confront me again. Leaving this memorial I was able to continue on as normal with only one sharp thought reentering my mind that brought with it a cloud of sorrow, the children. Reading their last words and how they were viciously slaughtered disturbed me somewhere deep within. Their stories just would not leave me. Unfortunately, I was not able to distance myself as easily to our other two visits to the memorials at Ntarana and Nyamata.
Walking into the churches with remains stacked like harrowing giants and torn, dirt soaked clothes surrounding us at all corners, pressing upon me an almost inescapable and overwhelming sense of disparity. Our guide explained, “this wall here, is where they smashed the babies. They grabbed them by the foot and smashed their heads here.” It felt unreal looking at the ominous dark spot that clung to the wall. Next, “this stick they used to torture the women by putting it up their female organ until she either bled to death or they would shove it so far, up to their head.” After that we began to exit and he concluded, “that was Sunday school.” That was it. What am I to think of this all? I want to be angry. I want to reconcile my understanding of God to the massacring of ten thousand people in a church but I cannot. I feel a war almost welling within me but silence is my choice weapon as my understanding is still so far from true comprehension.
Finally, I hear you, Anastase comforting another student who is also wrestling as she asks, “where was God in this?” I hear whispers of the faith that arose from the people, despite the crippling fear and carnage. I hear about how such persecution distilled an unshakeable confidence in the Rwandan people towards God. I hear about the reconciliation and the resilience of the people and this is what almost troubles me more. It stretches my understanding of God, causing an uncomfortable tension that I must push through until it fits over my experience of these places and encounters with these people. It grows my faith and leaves me baffled, thirsting for what these Rwandans have found through their grim past. It leaves me humbled as I learn more and dig into their history. I will never have experienced such horrific events, or even come close to understanding the grief that they are left with but I can only hope that I will leave with a fraction of the courage, depth and wisdom that Rwandans have.