Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Day 41: Learning from the Past: Building the Future

For our last day in Rwanda, we went to see one more genocide memorial, the Kigali Memorial Center. We arrived at 8:30 and were the first people to walk through (evident when they turned on the lights for us). It was great to have quiet and space while wading through the intense subject matter of the exhibit.

Beautifully written panels in Kinyarwandan, French, and English took us through the lead-up, the genocide, and the events that followed. The exhibits were poetic and emotionally written, often from the perspective of Rwanda. There were more personal details and stories added to historic events than at Murambi. Videos of survivors accompanied the panels and some images and footage were very graphic and unsettling.

The most positive thing to be said about Canada or
the West comes from one of the victims T-shirts.
After going through the events and seeing the photographs, bones, and clothes of victims, we headed upstairs for an interesting addition. To put the Rwandan genocide in historical context, they have dedicated an exhibit to other genocides the world witnessed in the 20th century.

Then the last room was the most difficult of all... the children's room. There were photographs of children with descriptions of what they were like: favourite foods, activities, and best friends. Some included their last words, and they all listed their cause of death. After the first child, who liked fries with mayo, had his last words listed as "Mama, where can I run?" we were having a hard time holding it together. He was chopped to death by a machete. It was absolutely heart-breaking.

At the end of the long and winding room the path led us outside through the gardens to the mass graves where we took a moment to try to compose ourselves in the midst of the final resting place of over 250,000 victims of the genocide. We took comfort in the program that is run here where youth are brought for a day workshop where they learn about the causes of the genocide and are taught the lesson of moving on called, "Learning from the Past: Building the Future". Having read about bad influences passed down from parents to the younger generation and feelings of hated being carried by both groups, we really like the sound of the program that is so far receiving positive results.

We had decided prior to our trip that one thing we would do when we return is start donating to a charity in each country that we visit, targeted towards a cause that hit home with us while we were there. We know it will help us stay connected to the communities we travel to and help subside the guilt of knowing what terrible conditions people are living in around the world without giving money to people who approach us.

If you feel particularly affected by the genocide and are also looking for a way to help, then we would encourage you to look further at this program that we feel is a worthwhile charity. (We couldn't find a working link for the charity or the memorial center; if you do let us know.)

Article about the program (from a newspaper we were sold on the street that was dated mid-April)

Interview with the man behind the program

"If you must remember, remember this...
The Nazis did not kill six million Jews,
Nor the Interahamwe kill one million Tutsis,
They killed one and then another, then another...
Genocide is not a single act of murder,
It is millions of acts of murder."
-Stephen Smith

"When they said 'Never Again' after the Holocaust, was it meant for some people and not others?"
-Apollon Kabahizi

No comments:

Post a Comment