Remembering Rwanda Twenty Years Later for 100 Days

Open tombs of victims at the Rwandan Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda.

I should have written this post yesterday.

I used busyness as my excuse. As is usual these days, I was in transit.

In reality, I probably could have made the time. But I decided not to, at a certain point intentionally choosing that I would blog about the commemoration of the twenty years since the scourge of the Rwandan genocide today. Partly it was out of a sense of “everyone else is doing it better than I will” mentality.

But more so, it was out of conviction that our response to the death of a million Rwandans in one hundred days can not be a one day affair. Yesterday, April 7th, marked the anniversary the genocide that was sparked the day after the shooting down of the airplane of Juvénal Habyarimana, the third President of the Republic of Rwanda. The assassination of this man sparked a powder-keg that erupted into the ethnic strife we now refer to as the Rwandan genocide.

As many of you know, in late 2013 I was blessed to be one of the four recipients of Catholic Relief Services Egan Fellowship. Together, our group traveled to Rwanda to learn about and write on the topic of CRS’ relief efforts in the country of Rwanda, including their role in post-genocide reconciliation efforts. As a result, we were able to meet in person with groups which included survivors and perpetrators who gathered together regularly to find forgiveness and to promote peace. But we learned so much more about the amazing place that is Rwanda that I hate to tie my impressions of that place solely to the genocide.

My trip to Rwanda has stayed with me. It has fundamentally changed the way I view the world around me. While I remain a housewife from Fresno, I believe now that each of us — myself included — has a role to play in the world beyond our front yards. I will never hold elective office, but I have the right to vote for elective leaders who will stand for justice. I will likely never be a foreign missionary, but I can use the mission field I’ve cultivated online to speak to issues that tear at my heart. I won’t be someone who makes or is able to donate millions of dollars, but I can make choices in how I purchase and give to organizations that support those in need. I will never be a priest, bishop or pope, but I can pray daily for those who continue to face warfare in their own neighborhoods.

For me, remembering the Rwandan genocide is not something that can be done in one day and then forgotten until we celebrate the 25th or 50th anniversary of such evil. Remembering needs to be ongoing, because the plight of people who suffer will continue. #NeverAgain is more than a hashtag or a slogan that we can mention once in a tweet and feel like we’ve done our part. Perhaps if each us were to fully commit ourselves to the idea that we won’t tolerate genocide, we can come closer to realizing that dream.

As much as it hurts to revisit the fact that at the time twenty years ago, I did nothing to help those in such terrible suffering, I’ve decided that my remembrance of the genocide will extend the full one hundred days. As a result, here on this blog I will be regularly sharing Rwandan-related posts, but will also point you to similar situations currently unfolding in places like South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

I hope that you’ll come along on this journey of remembrance with me. I pray that together we can work to ease the pain of those in our world who suffered, and those who continue to need our love and compassion.

 

About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com.


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