April 7th is one of Rwanda's national holidays. It is the Genocide Memorial Day. This year, they commemorated the 15th anniversary. The entire nation goes into a solemn state of emotion and mind. There is no one who has not been affected by the genocide. Some people do not want to use the term, genocide. Instead, they use terms like "war" or "conflict." But clearly it was a genocide and is known to be the worst genocide in the human history, not based on the number of people killed but based on the cruelty and the pace of killing in light of the time period that the genocide occurred. Approximately one million people were killed over a 100-day period. It goes ahead of the Natzi's gas chamber and the Khmer Rouge's Killing Field.
During April, I was advised to avoid meeting with clients in group. I was told that even some employees may react sensitively to certain remarks. Totally understandable. "How should I behave?", I asked. I was advised to only refer to the scriptures.
I grew up in Korea right after the Korean War. The War involved battles between two Koreas: South and North. Korea is a homogeneous nation with one race, one language and one culture. Yet, two Koreas fought for ideology, killing each other. My generation did not see and feel the chill of the war firsthand, but we have seen and felt enough indirectly through movies and classroom lectures. Basically, it was against communism, but the tone of the slogan has changed over time from "Destroy Communism" to "Oppose Communism" to "Win over Communism." Yes, it has been toned down. Lately, they are not even talking about communism any more. But the division is a reality and the gap is getting wider after 55 years of separation. South Korea is one of the top ten largest economies in the world and North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world. I do not foresee the unification of two Koreas in the near future. If somehow the unificaiton is forced, both Koreas will collapse together because S. Korea will not be able to bridge the wide gap existing between two Koreas. I hope and believe, sooner or later it will happen, though.
In Rwanda, ironically, the two tribes or groups of peope (Tutsis and Hutus) involved in the genocide are co-existing. Yes, there have been some indictments over the perpetrators and many are still in jail. But many have been paroled by the current president Paul Kagame and they are actively involved in the social activities without restriction or discrimination. Even the genocide prisoners wearning pink uniforms can be seen in the community working in community projects, without any binding.
Many people still suffer from the pains and sorrows. But they overcome them internally, many with their Christian faith in the healing, forgiveness and reconciliation power of the love. As Bishop John Rucyahana wrote in his book titled "The Bishop of Rwanda", "... we preach the gospel of hope on the piles of bones..." I am amazed by the power that Rwandans live with. I have spoken with several genocide survivors. Some lost all their children and her husband, but have adopted several orphans and are living a life that inspires others. But they never boast about themselves. They simply take it as a natural duty. What an example of self-less dignity and self-esteem in comparison to the selfish greed that is rampant in the modern society.
Rwanda was the only country in East Africa which said "No" to the slave traders. The Rwandan kings refused to sell their poor while all other kings did. Rwanda was the center of the East Africa spiritual revival that swept the region in 1930's and 40's. Every spiritual root in East Africa's Christianity somehow comes back to Rwanda. Rwanda is a deeply rooted nation with principles and dignity.
Thus, I find hope in this country. The hope for the first "African Tiger" nation. The hope for the gospel-based, gospel-propelled and gospel-spreading nation. The hope for an exemplary African nation that refuses foreign aid and instead offers aid to other nations. Oh Lord, may your blessing of hope be poured into this tiny nation to be a blessing of hope to many others! Amen! Amen! Amen! - Jeffrey
Hi Jeffrey, Thanks for the profound observations you make about Rwanda society, its humility and strength. Your parallel observations about Korea are also thought-provoking. Take care, Cheryl Wilbeck
Hi Cheryl, thank you for leaving comments. It is encouraging to know there are people who are reading and benefiting from the blogposts. Shalom Jeffrey
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