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“Twenty Years Ago, He Hacked His Neighbors To Death”

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April 7, 2014:

Twenty years ago today, a man got his hedge trimmers out of his shed, went next door where three children were playing, and hacked them to death: Twenty years ago today, the Genocide in Rwanda began — more than 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days by their neighbors, friends, and family.

So writes Lori Martin, a remarkable friend with whom I traveled to Africa in 2007. Lori fell for the orphans she met in Rwanda, dared to imagine that she could help, and uprooted her whole life to pursue her dream. She now lives a nomadic lifestyle, traveling back and forth between Rwanda and the U.S. and spending several months in Rwanda at a stretch.

Lori and Friends

Lori and Friends

A year ago, I marked the anniversary of the Genocide with a post about Lori and African Road, the organization she helped found in 2010. This year, I thought I’d ask Lori to share some of her own thoughts on the anniversary.

First, let me just remind you of that number again: 800,000. In 100 days. That is more than the number of Americans who died in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and our “war on terror” . . . COMBINED. Remember: Kwibuka.

In Her Own Words

Here’s what Lori has to say from Rwanda on this twentieth anniversary:

“Today begins a week of Remembrance called Kwibuka (remember) in Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwanda. It is a sober time to mourn the dead and honor the traumatized people who survived. Businesses and schools are closed. Parties and celebrations are put off.  People march in the streets and resolve never to allow such a thing to happen again.

I met a friend today (call him Evan) to plan a visit to villages where people are living in poverty, marginalized and discriminated against. He has been championing them for years, fighting for their rights and seeking to meet their needs largely on his own. He is hoping my organization might fund some of his projects to help the people.

I’m sorry to say that Evan was not hearing from me what he wanted to hear. I can’t make promises. Our board needs to discuss. Funds would need to be raised. Of course, that’s all I can say at the moment, but the fact is people continue to suffer while other people have the power to do something about it.

He continues to sound positive – ‘Of course, I understand the process! I know it has to be considered carefully!’ But I see hurt in his eyes. I see anger. He feels righteous anger at the ongoing injustice for these people, and a sense of powerlessness to do anything about it. I can sympathize – I would be hurt and frustrated, too. Injustice makes me angry.

And it just now made sense to me – a way I could get angry enough to hurt someone.

There are many factors that contributed to the Genocide in Rwanda. But I am guessing that people felt some sense of injustice and powerlessness. I look at Evan, trying every day to get help from people who are able, and not getting it. This is unjust, and people are suffering because of this imbalance.

How can we ensure Genocide never occurs again? I have no idea. But I think I understand how Evan feels.

Children from the Orphans’ Cooperative lead Lori to their meeting room.

Children from the Orphans’ Cooperative lead Lori to their meeting room.

You Can Make a Triple Difference!

If you would like to find out more about African Road and the work they do to provide housing for orphans, micro-enterprise business assistance for mothers, and education for young people, please visit the post I wrote about them last year. And here’s excellent news: a generous donor has pledged a matching grant, so if you contribute now, they will double it, — your gift will be tripled! Thanks for considering it. You can donate here. You can also visit and “like” African Road’s  Facebook page.

If you are a blogger, you might want to join Bloggers for Peace, a group of idealistic bloggers who pledge to write about peace at least once a month. If we send enough hope for peace into the cosmos, surely it will return to the earth. See the link below to get started.

 

Related Posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/the-plane-crash-that-killed-a-million-people/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

Bloggers for Peace — I urge you to join us!

Flying Crab Apples: A Daily Prompt

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What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled? I’ve been to Uganda, and the experiences were so overwhelming that I found it hard to write about the trip. I did write this, which was published in Outside In Literary and Travel Magazine:

I saw her through the dusty window as our bus bounced along a rutted Ugandan road, headed back to Kampala. She was crouched over a muddy waterhole, rinsing clothes in the brown water. Her hair was covered with an orange head wrap, and she wore a long print skirt which was hoisted up to her knees, revealing bare feet.

I had witnessed so much, after three weeks in Africa, that I barely registered the image at the time. I’d like to say that our eyes met, but I don’t think they actually did. She just slipped inside my head and made me cry when I got back to the States and started a load of laundry.

A Blackjack Poem

Today the WordPress gods have given the prompt: Come fly with me — what’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled? So there’s my answer. Uganda. But what I’d really like us to do today is fly with the crab apples. For fun.

I told you I had joined a group called Blackjack Poets – seven syllables, three times, for a total of twenty-one. That’s the rule.

In response to today’s Daily Prompt, I offer this — how far might a crab apple go?
♦ ♦
Crab apples litter the ground,
A red carpet just waiting
To welcome the winter snow.
♦ ♦
Where will they go in springtime,
Plucked up by birds and taken
To germinate far away?
♦ ♦
In the bird’s gut, seeds may dream
of Paris or Amsterdam,
More likely, they’ll splat on cars.
♦ ♦
The Red Carpet

The Red Carpet

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/daily-prompt-travels-2/

The Plane Crash that Killed a Million People

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We still don’t know who shot down the plane, but we do know that the death toll was between 500,000 and one million people. We aren’t talking about a disaster movie; unfortunately, this is a true story.

The people weren’t on the plane, obviously, they were on the ground. And — also obviously — that many people on the ground couldn’t have been crushed by one plane.

No, these people were crushed by fear and hatred of “the other.”

Lest We Forget Rwanda

It was nineteen years ago today that Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane fell from the skies, the target of either a Tutsi military organization (the president was a Hutu) or Hutu extremists who wanted to prompt a mass “revenge” killing of Tutsi people.

My guess is it was the latter, because within hours of the plane crash, the slaughter began, led by Hutu extremists in the army and the police force. For several years, the president had been whipping up anti-Tutsi sentiment, hoping to build his power base among his Hutu people. Hundreds of Tutsis had already been massacred by the time the civil war officially began nineteen years ago tomorrow.

English: President Juvénal Habyarimana of RWAN...

President Juvenal Habyarimana

Whichever side shot down the plane, Hutu extremists took advantage of the assassination, and the all-out slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus was on. The resulting ethnic genocide was the worst since World War II.

The day after the plane crash, April 7, 1994, ten Belgian peacekeepers were murdered, which led to the withdrawal of U.N. forces from Rwanda and the ultimate death of 75% of the Tutsi people living in Rwanda, many hacked to death by their neighbors after radio stations urged the Hutu majority to kill all the Tutsis.

President Bill Clinton called his failure to do anything to stop the genocide “the biggest regret” of his presidency.

If you have never seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, please watch it. For the world’s sake.

Let’s not forget.

Compassion Fatigue

We hear about compassion fatigue – it’s often talked about in reference to professional caregivers or to those who are caring for loved ones. But it’s true on a global scale as well. Too true. Our human psyches weren’t meant to be subjected to atrocities, day after day, year after year. We tune it out. We numb ourselves.

Your memory banks are probably full of the echoes of TV and radio reports about various genocides, your brains pulsating with color pictures of slaughters “somewhere else.”

But there is no “somewhere else,” folks. Sometimes the slaughters are carried out with assault weapons in our neighborhood schools. Sometimes they come in the shape of airplanes plowing into skyscrapers. And sometimes they come at the hands of a broken military veteran who witnessed human carnage and was himself massacred by the psychological aftermath.

We can’t afford to let compassion fatigue win out. We must – we must – remember these atrocities and the victims, living and dead and damaged. We can’t stop the cycle if we ignore it.

But what can we do, just a bunch of Americans on our couches, hunched over our computers? Read on….

Hope amidst the Hate

I am a member of Bloggers for Peace, a group of idealistic bloggers who pledge to write about peace at least once a month. Thinking that if we send enough hope for peace into the cosmos, surely it will return to the earth.

Last month, I told you about a friend of mine who works with mothers in the Niger Delta promoting peace.

With this post, I want to tell you about several other amazing friends of mine. A few years back, a couple of us went to Africa together. We met a man from Rwanda, Steven, who had been a Christian missionary knocking on doors and handing out leaflets. When he realized that many of the doors he knocked on were answered by orphans who had no adults in the house, he decided he could probably do something more useful than hand them a Bible tract. So he took a few kids into his home. Then a few more, then…

Youth

Some of Steven’s Crew

Pastor Steven

Pastor Steven

Well, you won’t believe what one person can do. And the thing is, he’s not just one person anymore. A few of my friends on that African trip went to meet Steven’s orphans in Rwanda, while I went to the slums of Nairobi to work alongside widows with HIV.

My friends Lori and Kelly were so taken with Steven and his growing family of refugees that they started a new organization called African Road to help support the kids. They are working to provide housing for orphans, micro-enterprise business assistance for mothers, and education for young people.

Please visit their website to hear this remarkable story of hope. This is what can happen when we see ourselves in “the other” – when instead of looking for differences between us, we look for the heart of God in each person.

Kudos to Lori and Kelly! And thank you, readers, for sticking with me till the end of yet-another-genocide story. Perhaps you will consider making a donation to African Road here in honor of this regrettable anniversary.

May the anniversary of the start of the Rwandan civil war remind us that it does not have to be this way.

Please join me in praying for peace. Every day.

Peace to you.

Related Articles:

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

Bloggers for Peace — I urge you to join us!

Microjourneys

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I’m still avoiding the fact that I must hit the road tomorrow, locking up my lovely mountain home until next Spring. I don’t have time to do another whole post of procrastinating, as in:

An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse: A Little Ditty on Denial « melanielynngriffin.

Instead, I will share with you two nonfiction microjourneys I had published in the last issue of Outside In Literary journal:

Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine.

Turns out they are both water-themed, but I’m too beat to try to do anything clever with that. So – I’ll talk to you after the road trip. Blessings as we enter December!

Last Road Trip of 2012

Microjourney One: On surviving hurricane Sandy

Once in a great while, I wish that I did not live alone. I expected one of those great whiles, the night that Sandy roared in. I lit the candles and scooted over on the futon to make room for Fear. Instead, old friends settled in: Louise Erdrich, Annie Dillard, Robertson Davies, and Leo Tolstoy. When Hayden and Handel arrived, I knew there would be no fear, only wind and rain.

Microjourney Two: On Puddles and Tears

I saw her through the dusty window as our bus bounced along a rutted Ugandan road, headed back to Kampala. She was crouched over a muddy waterhole, rinsing clothes in the brown water. Her hair was covered with an orange head wrap, and she wore a long print skirt which was hoisted up to her knees, revealing bare feet.

I had witnessed so much, after three weeks in Africa, that I barely registered the image at the time. I’d like to say that our eyes met, but I don’t think they actually did. She just slipped inside my head and made me cry when I got back to the States and started a load of laundry.

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