Powerful lesson from reconciled Rwandans
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/02/powerful-lesson-from-reconciled-rwandans/
(NOTE: The author of this article is a fourth-year honors student pursuing her Bachelor’s in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Uganda Christian University. These are her August 2019 impressions of a first time trip to Rwanda as part of the American-based Uganda Studies Program.)
By Delight Cajo M. Salamula
The Nyamata Genocide Memorial in Kigali is where I saw, touched and felt the atrocity of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group of people. It was inside a catholic church where Tutsi men, women and children fled, hoping to be protected from the “enemy” – the Hutu. Tutsi men were on the outer end of this five-acre plot to shield thrice their number of vulnerable women and children whose strength could not measure up to theirs. A book, “Mirror to the Church,” estimates that 5,000 Tutsi perished during the massacre at Nyamata and that 8,000 victims are buried in mass graves behind the church.
Bloodshed was the theme of the Easter holiday. But this time, it was not the blood of Jesus Christ claiming its dominance through his resurrection. It was the bloodshed of best friends killing each other. The irony was that the Hutu and Tutsi, along with a pygmy tribe called Twa,were under one king in 1994 in Rwanda. They have the same language and cultural norms.
The movies “Hotel Rwanda” and “Sometimes in April” and the “Mirror” book by Emmanuel Katongole give only a glimpse of the emotional and physical calamity that happened on the Rwandan soil April 7 to July 15 in 1994. The origin of this massacre had an economic backbone. The colonialists split already existing Rwandans into the three ethnicities based on how they looked and how much land and cattle they owned. The Tutsi were the rich with more privileges of higher paying jobs and their children studying in better schools compared to the Hutu and Twa. The Hutu, aggravated to think the Tutsi were the major bottleneck to their development, planned the killing for about a year before it started.
Bad as the genocide was, not all the Hutu participated. An estimated 1.5 million out of 8 million Hutu did, according to Reverend Antoine Rutayisire, who wrote the book “Faith Under Fire.” This book also shows how God came through with miracles saving lives in this massacre.
As I was pondering Rev. Emmanuel Katongale’s words about whether “the blood of tribalism runs deeper than the waters of baptism,” it dawned on me that God can wipe out the ethnic scars of the Rwandan Anglican Church. In 2019, these people sang and worshiped like they weren’t in Rwanda during that horrific time in 1994. Rhetorically, I wondered, had it happened to me, would I forgive the one who made me an orphan and go ahead to fellowship with him?
An experience in Rwanda with the American-based Uganda Studies Program changed my perceptions in many ways. Through an organization called Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance (CARSA), I listened to stories of two reconciled perpetrator and victim pairs of the genocide. If you want the truth, listen to both sides. Expressions of pain, anger, jealousy, betrayal, vengeance / revenge, ignorance, hatred, obedience to authority, confusion, psychological transformation, murder, awareness, acknowledgement of mistakes, search for forgiveness, change in behavior, bonding and acceptance of mistakes and history were told.
What stood out the most for me from our visit with CARSA was the psychological transformation that yielded into a peaceful human environment. The psychology behind reconciliation is having a common interest. Cows represent wealth in Rwanda and Uganda, but also reinforce peace in Rwanda. The perpetrator and victim(s) of the deceased family share a cow as upkeep. This enables them to shed layers of the grudge. If one can forgive the person who killed his or herbiological family, then it is possible to forgive and reconcile with absolutely anyone.
While not all Rwandans have reconciled, it was powerful to learn from those who have.
God did not plan the genocide. It’s by God’s grace that people whose families had been killed got back together and have hope through forgiveness and reconciliation.
One of those reconciled is Reverend Antoine Rutayisire, who recalled when he was five years old that his father was killed during the genocide. As some feel the world turned its back on Rwanda, he doesn’t. He does not blame America, the United Nations and others for not stepping in and stopping the genocide. According to Rev. Rutayisire, Rwanda should take full responsibility for its situation.Today, there is Rwandan peaceful cohabitation in which all residents are called Rwandans. In fact, the labels Hutu and Tutsi are forbidden for use of identification in the country.
Advancements over the past two decades include economic growth, health care and infrastructure. Through these, I realized one could always rise up when fallen.
The Rwandan economic growth rate averaged at 7.5% over the decade 2008 to 2018, while per capita growth domestic product (GDP) grew at 5% annually, according to the World Bank.On a local level, I learned through Hope International about a savings program that enables medical insurance for the poorest members of a community. One hospital, in Butaro village, treats cancer at no cost.
As I journeyed through Rwanda back home to Uganda, I saw eucalyptus trees planted on either side of the road, palm trees in the midsection of road and all the slopes of this country’s mountainous terrain with contours. Rwanda has a wave of natural beauty tethered by fresh air and temperate weather. Its culture esteems their inimitably defined long-horned cattle as a sign of wealth. With gratitude, people dance with their hands up in a U-shape to imitate the cow horns,amalgamating energy for the men (bulls) and grace for the women (cows).
I acknowledged the slogan, “God worked very hard for six days creating the heavens and earth. But on the seventh day, He needed a break, so He picked Rwanda as the place to take a much-needed sleep. God sleeps in Rwanda, then keeps busy at work everywhere else.”
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