Traveled To 84 Countries On 6 Continents Building A Global Movement Of People Who Are Changing The World. Trying To Make Sense Of How Everything Fits Together In This Big World Of Ours. Now I'm Living In Sydney Like A "Real Person" Working In Charity Fundraising. It's Very Strange, So I'm Writing All About It. Read My Stories. Hopefully Laugh.
02 October 2014
Remembering the past; affecting the future
Today was a somber day but an important one. Today we had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the devastating genocide that took the lives of more than one million Rwandans in 1994. It wasn’t a day for photographs or anecdotes or humor. It was a day for reflection, consideration and confrontation with something that was bound to upset us, confuse us and force us to think.
We began at Nyamata Memorial, where more than 10,000 people who were seeking refuge from the ‘genocidaires’ (as they’re called—those committing genocide) in a Catholic church were brutally massacred. The site is now home to a chilling memorial, the church is filled with the clothes of those killed and a mass grave holding 47,319 bodies of those murdered for no apparent reason. While we have always been taught it was an ethnic cleansing of “ethnic Tutsis” by “ethnic Hutus” we learned today that those distinctions were not actual ethnic groups. In fact, they were introduced by Belgian colonisers in the 1950s to divide and conquer the population. A Tutsi was anyone with 10 or more cattle and a Hutu was anyone else, which only served to make the genocide seem even more futile. While the entire experience was incredibly emotional, a real nerve was hit when we learned that two of our drivers had lost their entire families in the genocide and their parents and other relatives were buried right there where we were standing. To say it personalised and put a face to the experience is an understatement.
In the afternoon we visited the Kigali Museum and Memorial Garden, where more than 250,000 people are buried in a mass grave. The museum explored the history leading up to the genocide, the genocide itself and what has come afterwards. It also offered an overview of other genocides—The Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the Cambodian genocide and the Bosnian genocide—as well as an incredibly confronting exhibition about 12 children who were killed in the genocide. This incredible museum laid the framework for the conflict, explaining the role European powers played not only in dividing the population and causing conflict, but also in its and the rest of the world’s complete and utter failure to act in the face of one of the world’s greatest tragedies. It also shined a light on how genocide has now become a continual part of our human history despite a pledge in 1948 of “never again” by every nation on earth in the United Nations.
This chilling day led to an extremely thoughtful evening circle, where we come together each evening to discuss the day’s experiences. We talked about how the day made us feel—sad, angry, helpless. We talked about the futility of war and how the driving force behind this genocide and so many other conflicts in the world is an insistence to point out what’s different about each other, us and them, as opposed to what’s similar – we are all human beings trying to be healthy and happy in this life. We discussed how this related to our own countries and our own lives, from treatment towards Australia’s Indigenous population to bullying in school. Finally, we talked about what laid ahead. What’s become crystal clear to us in our time here is that this is a nation that has forgiven each other and is moving on, learning from their tragic history to ensure that this never happens again here. Similarly, we know that we too need to move forward with our newfound knowledge and understanding, not just of past conflict but of present efforts by World Vision and so many others to drive long-term sustainable growth and bring prosperity, equality and justice to the people of Rwanda. That leaves us, the future, to take what we’ve learned and spread a message of hope, appreciation, kindness and forgiveness in every way we can. This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and every student here is committed to making the most of it.