I didn’t know if it was appropriate to mention the genocide, or to comment about “Hutu” or “Tutsi” designations while I was in Rwanda. From what I read before I left, as well as my own sensitivities, I decided it was more my place to listen and learn than to talk about something of which I had no first-hand knowledge. The other speakers at the conference did not share my apprehensions, however, and freely commented on the genocide of 1994. One speaker even went so far as to say that the genocide was due to the failure of the Christian Church in Rwanda. All I keep thinking was: “I am among people who must be carrying a great deal of pain.”
Rwanda has experienced many times for reflection this week, and we in the USA have also been remembering the genocide. For about the last week or so NPR has been broadcasting stories about the 1994 genocide as the 20th anniversary is being recognized (extensive killing started on April 7, 1994 and lasted about 100 days. Around 1 million people were killed). I was especially intrigued by the interview given by Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. Minister Mushikiwabo tried to downplay the designations we know as “Hutu” and “Tutsi” and to focus on the need to rebuild. She said:
Whatever is known as Hutu or Tutsi was just used by people who were power hungry and who weren’t ready to share with anybody, and they took it to the extreme. And there are a number of Rwandans, of course, in our society that had nothing to do with that. There are a number of people who went along and later on regret it. There are a number of Rwandans who actually disobeyed the orders to kill their neighbor.
So that’s the kind of country we inherited. And again, to balance all this, to bring sanity, to bring normalcy, to get our economic development going, to open up to the world, it’s not an easy task.
As we were driven along the wonderfully clean streets of Kigali, I could not imagine that human bodies were piled up throughout the city 20 years ago. Susan and I visited the Genocide Memorial and were moved to tears. How does anyone recover from such pain?
Here’s another thing that Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo said:
You know, as we mark 20 years after the genocide, we realize that on one hand, we have done so well as a nation. But we are still a long way. We live with an inbuilt fragility, having to do with the dark history of the genocide. So I’ll say it’s a very difficult balance. If you consider the whole justice versus reconciliation, for us it cannot be versus. It has to be justice and reconciliation.
It is worthwhile to think about what justice and reconciliation can mean for any people—not just the Rwandese. That is something that I think about even here in the USA regarding multi-ethnic ministry and anti-racism work. But right now I am moved by that expression: “inbuilt fragility.”
I am a pastor partly because I know much of life is about all of us having an “inbuilt fragility.” I think of myself as helping people manage their fragility through faith in God and the love of Christian community. Of course, lots of people’s inbuilt fragility shows up as meanness—even toward those who are trying to love them and help them, such as pastors and other church members. We would do well to understand that we all have an inbuilt fragility.
My sisters and brothers in Rwanda, whose entire country has an inbuilt fragility, are teaching me that love can indeed cover a multitude of sins. I don’t know what that will mean for Rwanda as time goes on, but I hope that real love can conquer fear, suspicion, anger and whatever other negative attitudes that might be present. And I hope that more of us throughout the world can learn the same lessons about love. Love is the way that we’ll be able to handle the inbuilt fragility of life.
As I approach Good Friday and Easter—(that is, Resurrection Day)—I am challenged to believe that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was about love, a love that is meant to heal my inbuilt fragility. And that love is meant to be shared.
Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).