The first thing I felt when I landed in Rwanda was ‘Wow, Rwanda is just so beautiful’. I was simply amazed by the landscape. It certainly lives up to being called ‘Country of a thousand hills’.
Once we checked into our hotel, we had a couple of hours before we went to the Genocide Memorial. I have always been fascinated by the history of Rwanda and never thought I would be so emotionally attached. We drove up to the gates of the memorial and there was a ‘strange’ sense in the atmosphere. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. We were searched by armed security men upon entering, then walked up to the memorial. The waterfall was so tranquil and the rose garden was fresh of the scent of roses - It was so peaceful. We walked around the mass graves and the wall with names of people who died in the genocide. Currently there are a few names on there, but nowhere near the amount of 250,00 victims buried just metres away.
Inside the main building, there’s another security checkpoint – an armed guard and a metal detector. Walking down the stairs into an open dark area was surreal. There were 3 statues which represents before, during and after the genocide.
There was, what seemed like, an endless corridor leading around corners full of information on the history of Rwanda, the lead up of the genocide, the cause, the outcome, the result. There were graphic photos, video’s of victims and survivors and even weapons used.
I felt a chill as we went through to the Burial Chambers. Before me were massive photos of babies, children & adults. Under each photo was a cabinet which contained skulls and bones of victims… My honest feeling was ‘gasp’ my body, mind & soul felt empty. The final exhibit on the ground floor is a room displaying items of clothes worn by victims as they died.
If that isn’t bad enough, we went into the Children’s Memorial section. This section is full of large photos of children and a description of their very short lived lives.
There was another section called World Genocide which again had detailed information on genocide’s that have occurred across the world.
It’s difficult to explain this experience and my feelings. We had time to reflect and gather our thoughts – the only thing coming to my mind was “How could someone take another life? Why? This is crazy” my mind just couldn’t comprehend what I’ve just seen and heard. Looking back at my reaction at the time, it broke my heart and to be honest I still feel devastated by the works of men, however I’ve never known God’s love to be so visible, especially through the people here. I believe God has a great calling for Rwanda and His people.
There is purpose, hope and the most incredible forgiveness shown in Rwandans. Their beautiful hearts & smiles are something I’ll never forget and I walk away inspired.