My Rwanda-Kigali true life experience during her genocide

On April 6th 1994, an airplane carrying the President of Rwanda
was shot down over the capital city of Kigali, serving as a catalyst
for genocide against the minority Tutsi population. One million
people were killed over the next 100 days. It was one of the most
violent episodes in human history. The stories from that time can
be traumatizing to hear. Living through them is nearly
unimaginable. But in the wake of this tragedy, an equally unlikely
story has unfolded. It is the story of Rwanda’s recovery and
reconciliation. Rwanda has become one of Africa’s model
economies. Its streets are clean and safe. Over one million tourists
visit each year. If you walk through Kigali today, it’s difficult to
imagine the events that occurred less than twenty-five years ago.
But the stories are still there. And you can’t listen to them without
being reminded of humanity’s capacity for violence and the
fragility of peace. During my week in Rwanda, I focused on the
stories of people who took a moral stand during the genocide.
These are members of the Hutu majority who risked their lives to
shield and protect Tutsis. In Rwanda they are known as ‘The
Rescuers.
First came the meetings, They were openly advertised on
community microphones. Their stated purpose was to discuss
‘current issues,’ but everyone knew that killings were being
organized. These things were being openly discussed on the radio
at the time. I was always invited to these meetings, but I never
attended. I was a pastor. I wanted no part in those discussions.
But when the killings finally commenced on April 7th, people came
running to my church for sanctuary. The first of them arrived early
in the morning. They were trembling and too scared to speak. All
they could say was: ‘Hide us, hide us.’ I told everyone to go inside
the church. I said: ‘If our God is true, we will be OK.’ Finally a
young man arrived who was able to talk. ‘They killed my parents,’
he said. ‘All of us are being hunted.’ I was also terrified but I tried not to show it. I just kept bringing people inside the gate. By the time the sun went down, there were over three hundred people
hiding on this property, we filled every hiding place with a person. Some were in the
ceiling. Some were in the cupboards. Some were under the floor.
There were even two people in this toilet. That very first evening
the militia came to my front gate. Some were carrying guns.
Others were carrying machetes. They’d been told that I was hiding
people. They demanded to come inside and search the property. I
stood in the doorway and told them that they’d have to kill me first.
‘We’ll be back,’ they said. ‘And thanks for gathering the
cockroaches into one place. Because it will be easier to kill them
here.’ Days passed by. We were an abandoned, dying group. Our
food ran out quickly. Thankfully some church members answered
my call, and agreed to sneak us food after dark. The nights were
the worst. We could hear gunfire and screaming in the surrounding
hills. Always we thought we were next. Nobody was sleeping. My
wife and I lost so much weight. All our friends abandoned us. They
pretended not to know us. Only one pastor stood by our side. He
came to me one night and warned me that there was a plan to
attack the church. I told the news to my wife, and we both agreed
that we were ready to die, The next time the killers came, there were fifty of them. All of them had guns or machetes. They pushed straight past me and entered the pastor’s residence. They began pulling people out of the ceiling. They were kicking us and dragging us along the floor. I knew this was the end. I could see our death clearly. Some people were shivering and wailing and screaming for mercy. Others were
completely silent. They’d already lost so many loved ones and they
were ready to die themselves. We were dragged to this very spot
and put in three lines. We began to say our last prayers. I scanned
the mob of killers for recognizable faces. Many of them were
Christians. Some were even from my congregation. Every time I
recognized a face, I called to him by name. I said: ‘When I die, I am
going to heaven. Where will you go?’ Then I pointed to the next
man, and asked him the same question. Then the next. Then the
next. Some of the killers grew nervous. They began to argue
amongst themselves. Nobody wanted to be the first to kill. Soon
they were threatening to shoot each other. And they began to
leave, one by one, until all of them had run off.
We didn’t lose a single person. After hiding out for three
weeks, we were rescued by the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Everyone
came running in from the fields. All of us were cheering. In the end,
over three hundred people survived the genocide by hiding in this
church. I can’t remember all their faces. Life has taken us to many
different corners. And some of them have left the country to begin
new lives. But many of them still call me father. I’ve given away
the bride in several different wedding ceremonies. Occasionally
people will randomly show up on my doorstep with drinks. I’ll say
to them: ‘You were with us in the church, weren’t you?’ And we’ll
embrace. When I look back, I believe the genocide could have been
stopped if more pastors had taken a stand. We were the ones with
influence. The killers belonged to our congregations. And we could
have held them back. But instead we did nothing. And every
pastor had a different excuse. Some said they didn’t know things
would get so bad. Some said they were too afraid. And some said
the government was too powerful to oppose. But when you’re
standing aside while people die, every excuse is a lame one.

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3 Comments

  1. Ok kk

  2. Very touching story

  3. Thanks for the update.

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