Monday, April 5, 2010

And so it began

On April 6, 1994 the plane carrying Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi's Hutu president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down as it attempted to land in Kigali. Like us, the small quiet country had just celebrated Easter; families had gathered, congregations had worshiped, neighbors had shared meals. In a flash, the world turned evil. The radios spewed only lies, evil, and hate. Power hungry and evil men took over the government and wanted nothing but the total annihilation of the 15% of the population that was of Tutsi descent. In a country of 7.3 million, that means 1 million people. More land for the Hutus. More jobs, resources, educational opportunities, cattle, food, more everything for the Hutus. For 100 days the world went on while Rwandans killed each other. Hacked each other to death. Hunted one another down. Trapped groups of people - women, children, babies - in schools and churches where they sought sanctuary and set them on fire.
The Rwandan genocide is one of the greatest manifestations of evil in recorded history. I hate thinking about it. I've read some books, done my research on it; I feel I owe it to my children to know as much as I can about their birth country. I do not dwell on it, and I would not even bring it up, but for this one reason: for you to know how much greater the good work that has been accomplished there is.
It has now been sixteen years since somewhere between 750,000 and 1,000,000 people were brutally murdered by their own neighbors, by people they knew and who knew them personally in a country the size of the state of Maryland. In sixteen short years, Rwanda is now once again safe to travel to; in fact I would feel safer traveling to Rwanda than I would traveling to most of the countries in the western hemisphere!
How is reconciliation like this possible?
For one, once the veil of evil was lifted off the eyes of the Hutus - once the genocide leaders were stopped, once the drug and alcohol induced fogs fueled constantly by the genocide leaders, once the killing squads were not called to assemble, once the propaganda stopped on the radio, once the fear-mongering ceased - truth could once again burst forth and be heard. The truth took a long time to take hold. Some were stubborn and didn't want to believe it, for certain, but truth has a way of winning out in the end.
The world finally took notice and came. And then they stayed for while. Peacekeeping forces from France and Belgium were the first to arrive, and later the UN took over and set up refugee camps (where many more died from poor conditions, malaria, and water born illnesses) across the borders in the Congo, and Uganda. When the world is watching, evil men revert back to the cowards that they are.
Restoration. Deep heart changing forgiveness. Rebuilding of trust and of a whole country. Building by building and house by house. The kind of restoration only possible when God intervenes. He alone can change ashes into gardens, mourning into gladness, death into new life.
Money, aid, sponsorship programs, educational programs, counseling programs, programs, programs, programs! Investment is the bottom line. Not only others investing in Rwanda, but Rwandans investing back into themselves.
Obviously the work is not done there. Some estimates put the number of orphans at 750,000, some even higher. Clean water is desperately needed across the countryside. Infrastructure still needs to be rebuilt. There is more work to do. But it has begun.

1 comment:

  1. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. It shows that fear really is the beginning of sin. Fearing for one's job, money, "place," instead of trusting God to direct one's whole life. I am SO thankful for the good that's been done and that will be done. Amen.