Perhaps you read my recent blog post in remembrance of the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide — a guest post by my American friend Lori Martin, who works with orphans and widows in that country.
As the official week of remembrance draws to a close, Lori has some further thoughts to share from her home in Rwanda. Here are her reflections on how to stop the unthinkable from ever happening again:
“On April 7, 1994, in the place I am now sitting, people began to chop other people to death with their gardening tools. I am trying to imagine that horror.
I am in Rwanda, at home in a suburb of Kigali. We have a lovely, peaceful garden of carefully manicured lawn, shrubs, and flowers. Hundreds of birds are making their happy noises. Thick, cool mist covers the hills. We have electricity, running hot and cold water, flushing indoor toilets, television, cell phones, and internet. Sam and Eldad, our Rwandese house staff, live in a house of their own out back, and do everything from house repairs, taking out the trash, food shopping, and tending the garden.
Their job is also to guard us.
There is a six-foot brick wall topped with broken glass surrounding all of the houses. Iron gates are locked at all times. Every day, all the time, young, deadly serious men in army fatigues with machine guns, or in police uniforms with side arms, or in volunteer security uniforms with heavy batons, patrol every road within sight of each other, watching everyone carefully.
Lori’s “picket fence” in Rwanda
Twenty years ago, Rwandans witnessed what atrocities people can, and do, commit. Since then they have tried to do everything they can think of to keep people from committing atrocities again. Perhaps this — the tightly controlled police state that Rwanda has become, where unity and peace are dictated — is the best way to ensure that violence never surfaces.
But here is what I think, as the fog lifts from the hills across the valley, but the commemorative, strictly enforced silence remains. No matter what we do, no matter how we try to guard against or deny the possibility, people can, and will, do horrible things.
What do we do to feel safe? Rwanda uses laws and guns and social approbation. I’d venture to say that people in the U.S., me included, use democracy and wealth. But nothing we do is a guarantee of safety. If that is true, then what is there but to be afraid and fatalistic?”
Lori’s Hope for Transformation
“There can be a change of paradigm. What about, instead of seeking safety from other people, we seek transformation in all people? Where guns and constitutions fail to keep people from doing bad things, transformation in people’s hearts just might.
Transforming from hatred to forgiveness, cruelty to compassion, judgment to grace, and fear to love.
I know my own heart – Jesus has transformed me in these ways. So it follows – the more people who allow Jesus to transform them, the fewer people there would be who might do bad things to each other. I’m not talking about anything WE do – attending a church or having certain views on political issues. I mean what GOD does – what the radical, turn-the-whole-world-on-its-head coming of God’s kingdom will do.
Until God’s kingdom comes, people will commit atrocities. When it comes, we will have peace, safety, and full well-being forever. This makes me want to pray and work for God to transform people’s hearts. I want to pray and work for God’s kingdom to come HERE. And everywhere.
I think that no other means of guarding against genocide is worth the effort.”
This post is part Bloggers for Peace, an effort to raise the visibility of peace efforts around the world. Check it out:
Bloggers for Peace