Twenty-five years ago on April 7th Rwanda suffered a horrible tragedy when an estimated 800,000 people died as a result of the Rwandan Genocide. Each year the people of Rwanda mourn the loss and remember. This post written five years ago shares my thoughts and feelings after my first visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Genocide, Kwibuka 25, I dedicate this post to my Rwandan brothers and sisters, a people who have forgiven but have vowed to not forget.
Do Not Ignore the Truth
Buy the truth and do not sell it— wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
Rwanda is known as The Land of a Thousand Hills and in my personal experience you could also say that Rwanda could also be identied as the Land of a Thousand Smiles. I have found the people full of warmth and joy.
For a country and people that suffered such great loss and experienced so much grief due to the 1994 Genocide, it is amazing how genuinely hopeful this nation’s people are. When the 1994 Genocide is discussed though, the smiles do tend to vanish. I can understand why as I have spent more time in Rwanda.
For me the warmth and joy disappeared for a while when I took in an informative, moving and emotional visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. I wanted to further my knowledge of the country and to do so I needed to look at Rwanda’s history, including the events and impact of the Genocide. This visit gave me a realistic perspective on what the people and culture went through during this time.
I believe that there is not one individual that would not be moved by the Genocide Memorial exhibit. This experience out of all my experiences in Rwanda has been the most impactful.
A range of emotions washed over me during my two hours at the Memorial including sadness, unbelief, grief, loss and anger. While sitting close to the mass graves I asked myself, “why did this happen and why was this not prevented from happening?”
What became clearly evident while moving through the exhibit was that actions to stop the atrocities from happening could have occurred, and that information and knowledge was made aware to leaders that such atrocities were happening. Yet at the outset very little was done to stop the Genocide.
The world’s initial response was to ignore and to seek more overt evidence. Leaders in others parts of the world, not wishing to face the truth and information that they were receiving from Rwanda, ignored the situation and did not act. The resulting consequences were devastating with estimates of over 20% of the population being killed, many injured and so many scarred emotionally.
Rwanda’s experience is a sobering example of serious consequences when truths are ignored. But I have also realized that consequences also can occur in much less serious situations. In fact it happens frequently in many of our daily lives.
Don Aycock and Mark Sutton in Still God’s Man propose that when we ignore truths and disregard things we do not like to hear we tend to react with apathy, unbelief or we get angry at the individual or situation.This occurs because many of us do not want to face the truth.
The truth is hard to deal with and usually requires a change, difficult decisions have to be made, definitive actions have to be taken and courageous leadership has to take place.
Many find it much easier to avoid, deny or point the blame elsewhere. It takes strong willed and principled leaders to confront difficult situations and take more leadership action instead of inaction. Even though it may be hard to deal with and act on issues, it is the courageous leader who actively confronts difficult situations to avoid consequences from occurring. Thankfully there were such leaders who boldly intervened to eventually prevent the Genocide from continuing.
Most of us rarely face such situations that occurred in Rwanda, but I believe we can all learn a valuable lesson from this sad and emotional time in history. Two life-altering hours has made me realize that I need to take personal responsibility for my own actions, to not ignore the truth, respectfully confront those who do harm and never take for granted that I live in a country that has never suffered such grief and loss as Rwanda.
Yet the people of Rwanda are remarkably resilient and hopeful. There focus is on reconciliation and forgiveness. It is now over twenty years since the Genocide and the process of reconciliation continues. The country is forgiving but is not forgetting. “Never Again”, is the call to action for the Rwandan people. They have not ignored the truth and they are a notable example for all of the world to emulate.