All the skulls looked the same

Nine years ago today, I was visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial during the Reflections on Rwanda study trip.

Both at the museum, and then at numerous genocide sites we visited throughout the country, there was a room filled with the skulls and bones of victims.

What is the value of such genocide education where new generations see the bodies of victims of in this way?

For me, it was quite dramatic. I don’t think I had ever seen real human skulls before. Knowing the reasons for these ones being on permanent display heightened the intensity.

Looking at those skulls and bones, I thought about my own skull and my own bones. I put my hands on my head to make a connection between my own skull and the ones before me.

Of course victims were the ones being memorialized there. Yet, I do not think we could evade the realization that the skulls of the perpetrators look the same. And, even though these were skulls of people who were different from us in many ways, our skulls look pretty much the same too.

Amidst exploring the devastating consequences of radical ethnic conflict, it was powerful to see fundamental humanness represented to us in such a concrete way.

While the skulls and bones deemphasized the particularity and individuality of the victims, they did serve to emphasize the equality of them.

“We all bleed the same colour” is a well-known expression.

And there is a book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict titled, “Our tears are the same colour.”

There was something haunting about looking at so many skulls and bones throughout my travels in Rwanda. There was something clarifying, too. And what was clarified is summed by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s reflection, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.”

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