This morning we visited a genocide memorial, and saw both the depths and heights of humanity.
We visited a tiny church (Ntamara Church) where people had hidden in April 1994. 45,000 Tutsi were killed inside the church, and in the gardens and outbuildings that surrounded it. The roof is peppered with bullets and the edges show signs of the grenades. The pews are all completely covered with the victims’ clothes; the altar cloth is red with blood; and the jewellery and ID cards have been gathered in a heap.
There are mass graves next to the church, with coffins and coffins brimming with skulls and bones. There isn’t enough room to bury everyone so some people are still in coffins stacked inside the church.
We then heard from a survivor, Alice, 48, who had hidden in a nearby church, but whose mother and youngest sister were killed in this church. Alice had managed to flee the other church and spent time hiding in swamps, until the milita found her, cut off her hand and killed her 9month old baby in front of her. (She also has lots of injuries from the clubs used.) By God’s grace, she survived the 100 days of the genocide. In the following years, she took what had happened to her and her family and headed up a reconciliation court. She talked of the parallel feelings of sorrow and forgiveness. Incredibly, Alice still visits the people in prison who hurt her, to read the bible with them and pray for them.
With our minds full from all that we had seen and heard, we drove out to one of the local community projects in the afternoon. Here a locally trained paralegal was delivering community legal education on succession (a huge problem in Rwanda). LOH know that they can’t be in all of the places all of the time, so have invested resources into training local volunteers in each area. It was very powerful to watch Florence (a local paralegal) captivate the packed out school room, and the community then shared with us why they had come along.
In the evening, we were kindly welcomed into Safi’s home (Safi works for LOH with Juves) for soda and tea. Culturally, the opportunity to welcome guests into your home and share food and drink with them is very important, so despite our tiredness, it was a privilege to be welcomed into Safi’s home and family.
Dinner was eventually served back at the guesthouse at 9.50pm and we all slept very well!