Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Journal Excerpt From March 1st

I wrote this entry the night after I revisited the most difficult and powerful genocide memorial site I've ever seen. The memorial is in Murambi, on top of a secluded hill holding the walls of classrooms and dormitories of an unfinished high school. About 50,000 people were killed here. The bodies were bulldozed into mass graves then covered to hide the evidence. A survivor, who escaped and hid in the bushes of a neighboring hill, saw what the perpetrators did with the bodies. If it weren't for him, they may have never found the mass graves of preserved bodies that now lay on tables within the walls of the classrooms they were killed in.


Translation: "If you knew me, and you knew yourself, you could not kill me."

Today my head reached a climax of questions. Most are questions that may never be answered. What is forgiveness? Why is it so easy for some yet so impossible for others? How do you truly know if someone has forgiven? Why does human existence have to include events that require forgiveness? I've heard so many stories from various Rwandans who experienced genocide first hand. With every story I've heard, the teller is in a different stage of forgiveness. Whether it be forgiveness because of fear, for the sake of God, or a true understanding and whole-hearted forgiveness, Rwandans are trying to forgive.

50,000 people were killed in Murambi. Among those people were Willy's immediate family members from his mom's side. I wish so badly to know all their stories, but they will remain untold. How did Willy and his mom survive? Where did they go? Why is it so easy for some people to talk about the events that took place during genicide while others are left utterly speechless. I can only imagine the kind of pain Willy's mom endured. I know she lost practically her entire family. She lost her husband and a child, Willy's twin. She was raped. The rape left her with a life-long illness of HIV. She will live with this haunting memory for the rest of her life. She knows who killed her family but cannot bare to tell Willy who. How does he continue on every day without knowing the answers? How is he so happy now even though he cannot forgive those who hurt his family? It is something I will always be curious about. 

How is it that people can live so close to such a retched smell? This horrendous smell of death lingers all day, every day. How do these women wake up every day and go out to their garden to work and see the school with open classroom doors filled with bodies, and smell this awful smell every day? There's no way these women were victims. There's no way they lived there during the attack on April 21st, 1994. How does anyone from that town continue on after the massive attack? When will the poisonings end? When will every Rwandan feel safe? The human being is remarkable. The mind has the potential to be so powerful, and so weak. The process of healing and forgiving go hand-in-hand. In order to heal, I believe that people have to prove themselves in order to receive forgiveness. Someone would have to prove to me that they are truly sorry. There's no way it could ever be possible over night. I believe the process of forgiveness takes years to accomplish. Support is a necessity during this process, whatever form it might come in.

The country of Rwanda is testing the power of humanity. It is the first country to endure a genocide, and coexist in the end. The next ten years will be extremely important and worth learning from. This outcome will heavily depend on the generation of youth right now. Their parents were filled with fresh memories of genocide during their childhood. How do they learn what really happened? Will these kids learn to constructively question authority and to question the information given to them? When will the titles of Hutu and Tutsi really disappear? When will they really be a thing of the past? Will these titles continue for the sake of story? Will the world ever have a handle over genocide or will it continue to strike other populations of the world? Why is it so difficult to prevent? Will there ever truly be peace everywhere?


  1. Ally, sweet soul, your questions are so important and the answers even more so. I have spent my entire life thinking about forgiveness in all different stages. Somewhere along the line, i saw an incredible show on TV about forgiveness in different instances and within different cultures and religions. I will try to find it for you it left me pensive and in tears.
    I have noticed that i have blog readers in Rwanda. Is this you? There is a lot in my stories about the horrors of human betrayal. There is a lot to be pondered about survival and forgiveness. What it all comes down to for em is that i cannot sustain hatred. by not forgiving, I participate in giving the wrong kind of energy to something that has had its turn. I choose to be happy and tho thrive. The beauty of the human condition is that we have this choice- no matter how bad things can be. These incredible survivors have a deep understanding of this whether it be a personal choice or one guided by religion- it is all the same message.
    Thank you for the amazing work you are ding and fr sharing it with us. I will be posting your blog on my wall regularly and asking people to pay attention to donating.
    Love, Cairn Grow

  2. Cairn! Tis me from Rwanda reading up on your blog! Your words are so moving and powerful. It's strangely addicting to keep up with. I get so curious about how the hell you survived through all your close calls. I suppose the most simple word for me to use is unbelievable because it is simply... unbelievable. Forgiveness is always a topic that is brought up with the Harwood group, and spending the past 3 weeks with them is kind of what brought all these questions back. I am just most curious about Willy's stage of forgiveness. He told me when he was younger he always thought he would bet back at the people he thought killed his father (who would be his uncles). But now he chooses just to avoid them and live his life as though they never existed. He is very happy. Anyway, it's a very complex topic. I will be driving in burlington on April 18th so long as the weather and mechanics in the aircraft keep up with the schedule. Perhaps we can grab lunch or something! Thanks so much!

  3. Dear Ally,

    I offer you sweet thanks for your ponderings, so rich and alive with Hope!

    Very best, with bright thoughts and blessings!
    Cynthia West