By Annie Oakes
Today was the first weekday of our trip. The streets were bustling with people and the roads were filled with buses, scooters, bikes, cars and trucks – which was a change from the quieter roads yesterday. This morning was spent at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. We had heard and watched documentaries about the genocide in preparation for the trip, so had an idea of what we would be experiencing. It is amazing to think it was just over twenty years ago that the massacres happened – which is within most of the trip members lifetime. The grounds are beautiful and there is free admission – there is a museum and a mass grave garden. Going through the museum reading about pre-genocide Rwanda, it is crazy to be reminded of all the factors that lead up the creation of the three people groups (Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa), the changes in how people “qualify” for the different groups and the segregation of the Rwandan people because of the people groups. The details of the 100 days is hard to comprehend – friend and neighbor against each other, even people of the main church denomination at the time, turned in hiding people to the genocidaires. After the genocide, there were so many perpetrators that a local community court was created to find the people responsible and bring justice. If they admitted guilt they were given community service and if they denied their part they were put in jail. These groups created healing for communities, gave a place for the atrocities to be spoken about and helping some to find the remains of their family members. There is an area of the museum dedicated to the children victims as a reminder of the innocent and innocence lost due to this atrocity.
The last area of the museum was for international genocides that have happened around the world in the last century – from Cambodia to the Holocaust to the Armenians and more. Each tragedy hoping to be the last – but there seems to always be someone wanting to be superior, who is able to convince others of the need for a distinction in people (ethnicity, political views, religion, etc) and the need to rid their area of these unneeded, unwanted, “lesser” people. I can only hope that we can continue to learn from the past and not repeat history – creating a new trend of caring for others who are being persecuted. Giving help and assistance where needed, not only looking at our own gain, but in the greater good.
In the afternoon we exchanged money, had lunch at a mall and went to a market to start the souvenir shopping. After much negotiation, all but Karen left with at least a few gifts off the checklist and an idea of what we hope to find at one other market we will visit during our stay.
We are all tired emotionally and physically from the day, but are excited to go to Faith Village tomorrow!