Very sobering and quite memorable day here in Kigali. Visited the Genocide Memorial this morning here in Kigali. Over 250,000 are buried at the memorial due to the Genocide in 1994. After hearing so much about the Genocide over the last several years, it was incredibly eye-opening to see the Memorial and talk to those who were survivors of the Genocide. What is amazing is the way the country has recovered from such a horrific and terrible experience. Only 15 years removed, but the country has come a long way in redemption, restoration, and forgiveness. This afternoon we visited a church in rural Kigali where over 5,000 Tutsis were murdered in April of 1994. All were inside the Church during the genocide, thinking they had found a place of refuge from the attackers, but instead became an easy target and were murdered- mostly women and children. It is surreal to see tragedy like this up close, even 15 years removed. We actually listened to the story of a women who escaped from the Church- she was 10 years old at the time. Fled into the forest and hid out for several days. To hear her recount the story was numbing.
I grew up in a town with around 5,000 people. I can't imagine any situation where all of the people in my community would be murdered and slaughtered together in the same church within a matter of two days. It literally is hard to imagine. Seeing and hearing about this kind of tragedy is both painful and also frustrating, mainly because the UN and the international community at large stood by and did nothing, only sending in troops to assist once the killing was largely over. What a tragedy. Over 1 million Rwandese were killed during the genocide during the 100 days between April and July of 1994.
But even with such a great tragedy and dark spot in history for the country of Rwanda and the entire international community, this country has rebounded in an amazing way. Hope is the key word you hear. Forgiveness is a key phrase. Putting the past behind and moving forward. This is an amazing story of a country recovering from an atrocity that literally wiped out 20% of the country's population at the time. President Kagame has done a great job of leading the country and re-establishing national pride and a sense of identity.
More to come tomorrow. You can also visit Jeff Shinabarger's blog for updates and perspective from him.