Why all the Rwanda genocide blog entries on this visit? Entries that assail the senses and bruise the soul? Entries that relentlessly discomfort and offend?
Is it all overkill?
(an intentional choice of words.)
Why I am repeatedly plunging you into the descriptive imagery and pictures of a mass murder, especially during this Christmas season?
Enough is enough, right?
The Finley Peter Dunne quote I saw hanging in Dr. Wess Stafford’s office sums up the answer in one respect. It also sums up a good part of my job and calling: "Comfort the afflicted; Afflict the comfortable."
This would fall into the "afflicting the comfortable" part.
In 1994 we all sat silent. US AID evacuated its Kigali office, leaving its Rwandan staff to die. They now have a plaque there commemorating the deaths they could have helped to prevent. The UN didn’t heed the warnings and also withdrew instead of engaging. The media was quiet.
Just another bunch of Africans killing Africans. We all sat idly by in our apathy or ignorance.
It wasn’t until 10 years later, at the anniversary of the tragedy and with the release of the challenging and inspiring movie, Hotel Rwanda, that it really hit people’s radar screens. Only then did people even become aware of what happened during those 100 days of tumult, here in Rwanda.
The Hotel des Mille Collines has been relegated to a tourist attraction, a place for then-disinterested persons to now go to be able to brag about staying at Hotel Rwanda. Just another notch in a globe-trotting tourist’s belt.
We shut these atrocities out, or never allow ourselves to truly understand them. We rarely delve into the mire to get into the lives behind the statistics or to even comprehend that real lives underlay the statistics. We’re too busy. Too distracted. Too comfortable.
But maybe we’d think differently about 800,000 to 1 million people being brutally exterminated if we saw the bashed skulls, the pierced and ripped clothing bearing the stains of bloodied dismemberment, the horrific images of intense pain and suffering, the evidence of unrelenting evil that encapsulates the heart of our enemy?
The enemy that wants to snatch and dash the dreams of children.
The dirt road up to the Ntarama Church is one of beautiful serenity. There is no evidence of war or wicked bloodshed as you traverse its bumpy, rutty trail. The outside grounds of the church are peaceful, shaded by majestic acacia trees and decorated with white and pink streamers free-flowing in a gentle breeze. Even a person living one block away could easily forget the thousands of bloodcurdling screams that emanated from its walls…as the heads of adults were being cracked open within them and infants were being hurled against them.
By the Rwandan government’s estimate (reported at the Kigali genocide memorial center), the murderous rampage left 300,000 orphans. That’s reason enough to dissect and dwell upon the tragedy here.
But there’s another tie-in. Just as we forget that the one million victims each – individually – met with extreme personal pain in their demise, and just as we forget that the one million victims each represent a personal life of goals, dreams, and ambitions, of grand plans and mundane tasks snuffed out prematurely…so do we forget that 143 million orphans today have faces and lives of suffering.
The same enemy that wants to steal the hopes of children, wants to physically steal away their parents.
He wants to see hundreds of millions of abandoned and orphaned taken in a slow, quiet genocide.
The media is still silent as they die.
May we never sit idly by again.