Tag Archives: genocide

Still I wonder …

The story of Rwanda – as is the story of any genocide – is absolutely wrenching.

Each of the films I am viewing this evening has a scene that particularly tears at my heart and soul: European soldiers arrive to rescue, to evacuate Europeans and North Americans but not Rwandans. They leave knowing the horror taking place around them – aware of what will likely befall those they leave behind.

I watch. Tears fill my eyes.

And I wonder … would I have got on the truck?

And I wonder … who are my brothers and sisters that I abandon today?

The tears slide into my beard.

I can only fall back on grace.

Yet still I wonder …

See you along the Trail.

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Maundy Thursday 2012 makes me wonder

Maundy Thursday this year fell on an interesting day on the calendar. Wednesday marked the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Friday marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide.

On the night of his arrest, the night before his execution, Jesus shared bread and the cup and gave his followers a new commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (John 13:34).”

On the night before his assassination, Dr. King proclaimed that he had been to the mountaintop.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

On the night before Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira died in a plane crash, the night before hell engulfed Rwanda, what did the people do? What did they feel? What did they think?

I wonder.

See you along the Trail

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Ghosts pass through this week – they probably do so every week – this week they seem more real.

April 4 – the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Thanks be to God for his life and witness and for all who follow in his footsteps.

April 6 – genocide commenced in Rwanda. Thanks be to God for all who seek to rebuild their lives and country.

The fires of memory burn.

Painful, wrenching though it be, I remember.

See you along the Trail.

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Shooting Dogs

Location map of Rwanda

Image via Wikipedia

Tonight’s movie tears at my soul. Beyond the Gates tells the story of the École Technique Officielle in Rwanda.

As the 1994 genocide , Tutsis began arriving at the school, seeking protection from the 90 Belgian UN peacekeepers stationed there. Eventually 2,000 Rwandans arrived at the school, including 400 children. On April 11, the UN peacekeepers left. The people were massacred shortly afterwards.

A number of Europeans also arrived at the school. They were evacuated a couple of days before the peacekeepers departed. The scene is wrenching. Absolutely wrenching. In the film, two Europeans choose to stay at that point. It makes me wonder – deeply wonder – about the choices I make in relation to the least of my sisters and brothers and in relation to the least within myself. Thanks to my friend Bridgett for that image.

Characters pose a number of questions in the course of the film:

Does God love everyone? Does God even love those men outside on the roads?
Where is God in everything that is happening – in this suffering?
How much pain can a human being take?

And the historical question:

How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?

In an utterly haunting movie, two scenes stand out:

  • The Rwandans hiding in the school ask the departing peacekeepers to shoot them – that they might die quickly.
  • Before the end, children receive their first communion. Did that happen? I do not know. But there is much to ponder about the parallels between Jesus’ crucifixion and genocide.

The film originally carried the title of Shooting Dogs – a reference that, under their mandate, the peacekeepers could shoot scavenging dogs because they might carry disease, but could not act to stop those committing the killing. What a world we have made.

In the last scene, set some five years after the massacre, one of the young women who survived makes here way to England where she talks to one of the Europeans who left. It is a gentle confrontation that ends with the words, given to the survivor:

We are fortunate. All this time we have been given. We must use it well.

Another sleepless night filled with powerful emotions and disturbing thoughts lie ahead.

See you along the Trail.

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Sometimes heroes fail

I am watching a movie about one of my heroes: Shake Hands with the Devil. It is a wrenching and painful movie set during the Rwandan genocide – a time of brutality and horror; a time of failure – failure by the nations, leaders and peoples of the world, failure by the United Nations, failure even by my hero.

Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, of Canada, served as Force Commander for UNAMIR the UN peacekeeping force for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994. He was there for the 100 days of genocide. Dallaire did not stop the genocide. He did not command perfectly. He made mistakes.

During a scene set in a hospital, a woman says to him: “We’re dying and all you say is there’s nothing you can do.” Did that scene really happen? Perhaps. I would need to re-read his book. But it could have.

He is credited with helping to save thousands. Yet he remains haunted by individuals – hundreds of thousands of individuals – who were not saved – who perished on his watch. As the CBC notes: “After Rwanda, Dallaire blamed himself for everything. He sank deep into despair. He attempted suicide.”

Why then, do I consider Dallaire a hero?

Because he tried. Faced with the situation, so many turned away. Even though they knew – even though Dallaire told them – they world turned its back on Rwanda. In the words of another line from the movie, the world dismissed Rwanda as “just one more African mess.” But Dallaire stayed and tried. He remained faithful – faithful to his charge and faithful to the people.

So for Roméo Dallaire – for the unnamed people of Rwanda and soldiers and medical personnel and journalists and others who stood with him – for all who stand against death and evil – for all who work for life – I give thanks.

See you along the Trail.


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