April 7th, 1994 was the day that marked another milestone in the human history with one of the most infamous stories of the genocide. Almost one million people were killed just over 100 days, or ten thousand people slaughtered a day. It was the fastest massacre among all genocides in the history. The United Nations was was so reluctant to use the term "genocide" to avoid the triggering of mandated actions that it had to take if the term "genocide" were used. It was only the denial of the reality. Human massacre was taking place in Rwanda and the news was being reported, but the reality was being ignored. Finally, the United Nations had no choice but to accept the reality and resolved to send some armours and troops. But the UN's rescue resources never reached the soil of Rwanda until the Rwanda Patriotic Front soldiers expelled the extreme Hutu militias out of the country and brought the genocide under control. Even after the massacre was stopped, the RPF soldiers had to kill all dogs because they were eating human dead bodies. Rwanda was a chaos.
And it was only 16 years ago.
16 years is not a short period of time, but it was only 16 years ago when the entire country was in total ruins, in despair and in extreme anger and bitterness. The anger was against the killers, against the neighbors who turned to become killers, against the priests and pastors who betrayed those who trusted them as the last refuge, against the western world that was ignoring the reality and against the former colonists that created the hatred among Rwandans for their control purposes, who were living in peace. In the midst of hatred and bitterness, however, the entire country was in hopelessness.
For the past 16 years, Rwanda has gone through unbelievable transformation. Transformation has been not only economic, political and diplomatic but also social and psychological. Rwanda has achieved remarkable economic improvements, political stability and diplomatic advancements in the world as well as in Africa. They have been impressive. But Rwanda has also attained tremendous psychological relief among people and incredible social reconciliation among the perpetrators and the victims during the genocide. It has been painful and unbearable to many. Nonetheless, they have come through and are still going through the process of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.
At the same time last year, I only had intellectual knowleddge of the incident with very little sense of reality, and did not have sufficient experiences about the country and the people. Over the past one year, I have heard many live stories and met many people who went through the human tragedy. So I am better prepared than last year to talk about Rwanda and Rwandans.
I find great hope in this small country: the land of thousand hills. At the size of Maryland, Rwanda is land-locked and has no natural resources that are abundant in many African countries. Nonetheless, Rwanda is upbeat and hopeful now. Rwanda is aiming to be one of the exemplary countries in Africa, which is self-sufficient, self-reliable, self-governing and self-esteemed. Rwandans are proud people. They are not in a hurry. They are buhoro buhoro (slow slow). But they are determined and hard-working. They are open-minded and willing to learn. They do not mind being corrected and making changes. But they stand firm in their own identity, not being easily swayed by the western world's ethno-centric views.
I like Rwanda. I am grateful for Rwanda and for God's grace extended to Rwanda. I pray that He continues to bless this small country and use it to make the bigger and stronger countries ashamed for their corruption, selfishness and greed. It is my reflection on this humanly tragic memorial day, looking forward hopefully to the future that only God knows. - Jeffrey