Today we visited the Genocide Memorial in Kigali.
It sounds so matter of fact but actually it’s an experience which changes something deep in your soul.
Honestly, to come to this beautiful country and not spend a good portion of your first day at this Memorial would be irresponsible if you truly want to understand what the people of this country have endured. Or more accurately, what they have survived.
As you walk the halls it feels like a museum. But you soon begin to realize everything about life in Rwanda is measured in “before and after”. Before and after the genocide of 1994. As you absorb the story you begin to understand why.
Between 800 thousand and one million people were brutally and systematically murdered over the course of 100 days. Untold thousands more traumatized by what they had seen and experienced. Lives destroyed, families ripped apart and often gone forever.
The memorial tells the gut wrenching stories, both from a high level macro view and also the personal trauma… up close and personal tales of our worst possible nightmares becoming reality.
How could this happen? How could human beings be so insanely inhumane?
Our Rwandan friends tell us how difficult things were after the genocide ended as people questioned everything about their lives. Why did the world not come to our aid? Why was my family taken from me? Where was God when this was happening? What is wrong with us?
There was a great sense of embarrassment also. What is it in our Rwandan people which makes us so evil, capable of committing horrible acts of violence against our own friends and neighbors? There was a national shame which hung over the country.
But after walking out of the memorial and trying to process all we have seen, as we walk through the gardens which surround the mass graves here which hold the remains of over 259,000 victims of the genocide, you realize it’s not an exclusive Rwandan problem. It’s the depravity of mankind. Left to our own ways, mankind will choose selfishness above all things and the end result is always something catastrophic. It has happened throughout history and will probably happen again soon.
Some might say it is happening in Syria today.
God’s plan was perfect and man’s selfishness has led us to situations where genocide memorials are necessary.
2 Peter 2:19 warns us that, “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
But I want my Rwandan brothers and sisters to know this – they should hold their heads high today. They have much to be proud of in the resiliency and recovery which is apparent throughout this incredibly beautiful place. They have lifted themselves up and turned their eyes to the Lord. The church is alive and growing. The political leaders are putting their country’s well-being ahead of self-interest. The people are caring for those who can’t speak for themselves… loving the widows and orphans.
And yes, forgiving the perpetrators. They have reached the counter-intuitive, amazingly courageous, and overwhelmingly far-sighted decision to offer forgiveness to those who brought such tragedy down upon Rwanda because they realized their homeland will never grow and prosper again if the focus is on revenge.
So they choose forgiveness. Even when it is difficult. Even when it seems impossible. In the most unbelievably supernatural ways. They choose it and they pursue it.
They choose compassion.
The Rwandan people have much to be proud of today as their country is a shining example of what all of Africa might someday become with inspired, visionary leadership.
And God wasn’t absent during the genocide. I believe He wept just like the rest of us at what mankind chose to do with his creation. But today His glory is more widely obvious and proclaimed than ever before as His people rise up to make a difference in the name of Jesus.
Well done, Rwanda.