Feburary 6th, 2013
(Note: if you read this, please read it to the end. It ends on a somewhat hopeful note, and I think this is important.)
The title of this was taken from one of the genocide memorials we visited yesterday. A line above a collection of photos of children who were murdered with their names, their favorite games and foods, how they died. An attempt to put a real human life behind the numbers – something I would struggle with as I stood before piles of skulls at the mass graves we went to later. The smiling six year old who loved to play with his brother -- tortured to death. His last words: “UNAMIR will come for us.”
When I left the museum, shattered, I wandered around a garden – so beautiful I could hardly bare it. I wondered, how on earth am I supposed to live in the emptiness between the depths of evil and suffering, and this Eden of flowers of birds? How can I live in a world of such extremes and not be torn apart?
Then we went to the churches. During the killings that preceded the genocide churches had served as safe havens, and so thousands crowded into them for protection from the priests, and from God. These churches are graves now. Dirty clothes of the dead lie on worship benches like enveloping mold, as if death is growing in the shadows. Scattered around rusty bits of mettle that bashed in someone's skull, tore off someone's arm, rosaries, the identity cards with the single word *Tutsi* that meant the end.
I have often wondered how Rwanda can be such a religious country. How can people believe in a God that would allow this world? How can they not hate him with all their being? But yesterday, we came to a wall, stained with blood and brain, where babies skulls were smashed. When I saw it I wanted to fall to my knees and pray to a God I don't believe in. For the souls of the children, and for the broken souls who killed them.
All this weighs heavy. And yet, with the horror comes honor. I feel honored, privileged even to be a witness. Even as I struggle to understand, even as I fail, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn beyond the pages of a book. To make it real. I realize that bearing witness means more than just seeing – it means honoring the dead and the survivors by spreading their stories and dedicating yourself to seeing that they will never be repeated. It means honoring the life that somehow made it through this hell and is still standing. Of everything I have learned today, it reminded me how precious precious life is. How everyone I see is something wondrous -- especially in Rwanda. I thought of this as I walked home, and chatted in broken Kinyarwanda with the helpful strangers guiding me through the bus system. Thought of their beauty, their strength, that they could be the ones helping me. Today I am shattered, but I am hopeful.