Genocide and Generations

Today we made the rather obligatory visit to a Rwandan genocide memorial. We wanted to go. I believe  it is absolutely necessary in order to provide context and the backdrop to realities of life in Rwanda today.

It was a Polish lawyer who first coined the word genocide in 1943 from the Greek ‘geno’ (family, tribe or race) and the Latin ‘cide’ (killing).

If you have been to Auschwitz or one of the several concentration camps in Europe you would know what to expect. What I was not prepared for was realizing how similar the pattern of genocide was between Germany and Rwanda. There is no question that in Rwanda it was not a riot gone bad but rather a highly planned an orchestrated intent to destroy a group of people by killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, and deliberately imposing conditions where life was impossible.

In 1994, twenty percent of Rwanda’s population were murdered leaving tens of thousands of children as orphans, between 250,000 and 500,000 women raped, and many men and women maimed for life with missing limbs, eyes and fingers.

Genocide Mass Grave Kigali

As I looked over a mass grave where 259,000 Rwandan’s are buried I was caught up in my mind with the theological doctrine that derives from the Augustinian concept of original sin. Simply stated it is a doctrine that asserts we as people are by our very nature hard wired to reject the love and rule of God in our lives. It is illustrated by a glass a wine with a few drops of poison in it. Even though it could be a glass of very good wine, the few drops poison all of it. So while not all of our nature as a human is depraved; our nature is totally affected by depravity.

There were good people, neighbors, and friends who suddenly over a very short period of time became killers and it has left behind a generation of damaged people in a nation trying to rebuild itself.

The Next Generation

Just two hours after reflecting on the Memorial I was escorted to the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology to speak to a classroom of students – mostly engineering students. It is a significant university here that was started with the determination to encourage the zeal for modern technology and science among the Rwandan youth so that they would be able to compete with students from other parts of the world.

Most students in the room would have been between one and five years of age when the genocide of 1994 took place here. Some of these young adults were raised by others – their own family dead. Everyone in the room knew of family or friends who lost their lives in 1994 under the planning of the group called Akazu.

Yet what I experienced with the students was a hope for the future of Rwanda. They desire to be educated and a part of the future in this aesthetically beautiful land. They are Rwandans and no reference is made in this country now of tribal differences. Do they still exist? I suspect so, but the people are trying to focus on the future more than the past.

I am now back on the campus of the Wellspring Academy feeling convinced of their focus on improving education. They are not only developing top-notch schools and using these as models for the government, but they are also building up the caliber and capacity of teachers who are the heart and soul of an education system. Their laser like focus is a key to their success, and evidenced by the sense of God’s favor they have here in Kigali.

Bob and I are doing a day of leader development tomorrow, pouring into the team here at the campus to encourage and equip. Wellspring was birthed right in our neighbourhood back home, so I guess we are just trying to be good neighbors.

Learning from today:

  1. You and I are capable of doing unimaginable things given circumstances that nurture that. There were men and women who claimed to be Christians who participated in, or did nothing to prevent the bloodshed.
  2. I think about the children – those who were massacred and those who have had to live with the consequences of what they saw during that 100 day killing spree. It inspires me to continue giving time to the work of protecting and caring for children as a board member of World Vision Canada.
  3. There is hope, and it is just one generation away. This inspires me to continue mentoring and building into the next generation of leaders.

Rwandan Work Prayer

While in Butare we visited the National Museum of Rwandan in order to get a pre 1994 historical background view of the culture in this beautiful country. Imagine my surprise when I found this prayer in the lobby there – very appropriate for all of us as we go into our workplace. – Carson

Work Prayer

My Heavenly God,

As I enter this workplace I bring Your presence with me.

I speak Your peace, grace, mercy and perfect order into this place.

I acknowledge Your power over all that will be spoken, thought, decided and done within this place God.

I thank You for the gifts you have blessed me with.

I commit to using them responsibly in Your honor.

Give me a fresh supply of strength and knowledge to my job today.

Anoint my works, ideas and energy so that all my accomplishments may bring You glory, and my works bring faith, joy and smiles to those I come in contact with.

God, I pray that when I leave this place give me traveling mercy.

Bless my family and home.

In Jesus name, Amen

Rwanda: One thousand hills, a thousand stories.

It is very hard not to like Rwanda.

Rwanda is a thriving, safe country with one of the lowest crime rates in Africa. It is also a small country – in area the size of Vancouver Island, or Belgium. So from Kigali, the capital, you can drive in any direction in a day to see other parts of this beautiful land.

When I held up my iPhone using FaceTime to talk with Brenda she commented on how green it was. So true, on our drive today I was impressed by the green undulating landscape of hills, gardens and plantations.

It is also a remarkable country from the standpoint of how the people are overcoming Rwanda’s genocide, three months of brutality in which an estimated 1,000,000 people were killed.

This country’s comeback has exceeded what even the most optimistic observers would have predicted. Jeff from the Wellspring Foundation has lived here since immediately following this tragic part of Rwandan history. He commented that the government has remained focused on the delivery of basic services like access to electricity and running water to all of it’s people equally. This has brought a stability and economic growth to the nation and mitigates genocide ideology.

We drove today to speak with a group of students at the national university. It was a special acknowledgement and prayer time for  ‘finishers’ – those students about to graduate the end of June.

As I looked into their eyes from the podium, they looked just like students you would see at any university. The lecture theatre looked different from what you might be used to – but it works.

Bob and I spoke to them about our trip around the world and what we are learning about the places and leaders through who God is at work. We encouraged them to finish well and then to plant themselves where God leads and serve him there.

As we were leaving, our host thanked us. He was a third year student himself and he shared how he has always wanted to visit Canada.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you see, I have no parents, and some Canadians – people I have never met or seen, are paying so that I can attend university. That is why I want to visit your country.”

This young leader probably lost both parents during the genocide, I did not want to ask. But his response made me feel sad for him, and thrilled to know that some Canadian family are making it possible for his life to be different – very different.

Now, as I finish with the Internet, and get my other net set up – I’ll be thinking about him for quite a while.