Seventeen years ago today, evil descended over a nation with a horrifying intensity. Neighbors betrayed neighbors. Friends brutally murdered friends. Children hid in terror as feared for their lives. As I listened to the stories of those who survived the genocide, I found myself heartbroken, time and time again.
We visited the National Genocide Museum in Kigali. The sights and images I saw will forever be etched in my memory. What devastated me the most was the section dedicated to the children who died during the genocide. As I looked at photographs, into the faces of these children and read about the atrocities they encountered, I couldn’t stop the tears. The rebels attempted to exterminate the Tutsis by wiping out the younger generation.
As I read about these kids, I kept thinking of the children I know that are the same age. It was too much for me and I had to flee this section to cry. I couldn’t handle the weight of what had happened. In an attempt to help you understand why Rwanda continues to grieve seventeen after the genocide officially ended, I am going to share with you about a few of these children. I will warn you, this is not for the faint-hearted. My heart breaks even now as I recount these atrocities.
Murengezi, Age 12
Favorite Sport: Swimming
Favorite Drink: Milk and Fanta
Best Friend: Her Older Sister
Cause of death: Hacked by Machete
Bernardin, Age 17
Favorite Sport: Football
Favorite Drink: Tea
Favorite Food: Rice
Cause of death: Hacked by Machete at Church
Fabrice, Age 8
Favorite Sport: Swimming
Best Friend: His Mom
Cause of death: Bludgeoned with a club
Ariane, Age 4
Favorite Food: Cake
Favorite Drink: Milk
Enjoyed: Singing and Dancing
Cause of death: Stabbed in her eyes and in the head
Aurore, Age 2
Favorite Drink: Cow’s Milk
Favorite Game: Hide and Seek
Cause of death: Burnt alive in the Chapel
Sisters Ages 6 and 7 died when a grenade was thrown into their shower.
One ten year old said, “I ran like some sort of animal. I had to eat twigs from the trees. I saw the corpses of my relatives on the hills. Sometimes I would stumble upon someone who had been hacked with a machete but was still breathing.”
I could go on and on and tell you about the numbers of babies hacked in their mother’s arms, or even yet, in the mother’s womb. These are just a glimpse into Rwanda’s past. Today, Rwanda grieves. It not only grieves the loss of lives, but also the loss of innocence. Men and women who participated in such crimes are haunted by guilt and shame. How can they ever forgive themselves? How does a nation move forward?
One thing I learned from the Rwandans is that they are resilient. They are strong and are striving to walk through their pain into a future of hope. Please join me in praying for the people of Rwanda as they gather today to remember. Pray that they will find hope and peace.