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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Back to Kigali

When I am at the market, in the midst of a large crowd,
I always think I might just find my brothers.
—Rose, age 10

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This is the blog post I have been putting off for two years. As I type this I’m still not sure I’m actually going to write about the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. What can I possibly add in terms of response or commentary?

I suppose I can talk about my feelings as we moved through the exhibit: horror, disbelief, disbelief, disbelief, and more horror; and then, whenever we encountered victims’ faces or belongings (or video interviews with survivors talking about their lost loved ones), I felt sadness. I was thirteen when the Rwandan genocide occurred, and while we talked about it in our social studies classes, it always seemed so abstract, so thoroughly unbelievable. Genocide was something that only could have happened in the Bad Old Days, back when my grandfather was indirectly fighting the Japanese on a destroyer in the South Pacific. But the “Bad Old Days” can and do revisit themselves upon the present, usually with new faces and different governments involved.

I took a lot of notes that day at the museum (because again, I thought I might be able to come up with some sort of intelligent response here):

Fire is a symbol of death + mourning in Rwandan culture. Elephants = memory, fruit trees = children.

Dogs eating corpses in the streets.

Fabric retrieved from a mass grave: a fitted sheet printed with the Superman emblem.

Children beaten and thrown into septic tanks. Women forced to kill own children before being killed themselves.

Catholic priests implicated in Rwandan genocide—told Interahamwe where Tutsis were hiding. WHY???????????

“Education is part of the answer to denial.” (re Holocaust survivors speaking in schools)

 

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Human beings do unspeakably evil things to other human beings, and I can have no intelligent response to that fact. I can only renew my commitment to a peaceful life, which means not responding to anger with more anger, but with compassion; and easing the suffering of others wherever and however I possibly can. I can also pray that anyone who is engaged in conflict, as a victim or as a perpetrator (or who might fall into both categories) will somehow be able to find peace and clarity out of suffering and confusion.

 

2 Comments to Back to Kigali

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    September 16, 2015 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    I feel guilty saying this, but I also felt immense gratitude for never knowing what this horror felt like and guilt for the part that our government has played if not in this conflict, in others.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.