Monday, May 11, 2015

The Impossibility of Understanding Genocide

Stained glass by Ardyn Halter.  This one is called "Descent to Genocide"

It is impossible to understand genocide. I have been considering it a lot prior to this trip. We visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial. My thoughts are still settling on the experience, and I can imagine a lot of personal journaling in the future. 

The synopsis:  Approximately 1 million Tutsi people (and Hutu allies) were killed in about a hundred days (April 7 - mid July), and another 2 million displaced. The killings were organized and carried out by the Hutu majority. 

For now, 6 key learnings:

  1. Oppression so frequently leads to more oppression (and often a flip-flop the oppressor) and violence.
  2. The seed of the ethnic unrest in Rwanda was planted when foreign occupation required ethnicity to be added to the identity cards, and then favored one over the other (the Tutsi).
  3. The painful reality is that not only were people brutally tortured and killed, but women were raped (repeatedly) and some of those not killed were intentionally infected with HIV.  Imagine bearing a child under these circumstances, and that child being HIV positive.
  4. The international community failed to intervene in a timely fashion, despite having been informed of the realities.
  5. A system of community justice, gacaca or "justice on the grass", was enacted to manage the logistics of trying over 13,000 alleged perpetrators. This system piques my interest, though it has also come under criticism. Its focus is community rebuilding, truth telling and healing.
  6. What I'm taking to heart: Always see our common humanity before anything else.

There are many community grave sites like this one at the Memorial

Over 250,000 bodies are buried at the Memorial Center. In fact, we observed a memorial service for a body that had been recently discovered, 21 years after the genocide. It's an important part of the healing for victims to be "buried with dignity".


See another slice of this story, the "official" blog for this project, at


Amy said...

Thanks Stephanie. So sad.

Rosemary said...

No words - only prayers.

Angela McRae said...

Thank you for sharing something so poignant and for teaching me something new (gacaca). Praying we don't let such a thing happen again!

Marilyn Miller said...

Thank you, Steph!
I also will pray this not happen again anywhere in the world.

Nora @ Teacup Tales said...

Too overwhelming to comprehend. I pray that history will not be repeated.