This is a throwback post to my Reflections on Rwanda Genocide Study Trip in May 2012
In May 2012, I travelled on the Reflections on Rwanda program, a two-week trip for Canadian students to visit the Republic of Rwanda and study the genocide that occurred there in 1994. The purpose for studying genocide is to gain insight into human nature through studying the extremes in human action. Listening to the stories of rescuers and survivors prompts me to study the virtues required to affirm the sanctity of human persons.
Confronting profound evil is a difficult experience that challenges my faith. We toured dozens of memorial sites throughout the country. Many of these sites were former churches where people had fled seeking refuge and peace. At each site, we saw hundreds of skulls and bones of victims. Looking at those skulls and bones, I thought about my own skull and my own bones. I thought about how these bones and skulls fall short of truly representing the victims. What the skulls and bones do emphasize is equality, but what they deemphasize is individuality. When I observed a display with rosaries and identity cards among the skulls, it made me think about the dynamism of the life that once animated those bodies that were so violently destroyed.
This is a quick post to direct you to the story of Cyprien and Daphrose Rugumba, a Rwandan couple whose cause for canonization is underway.
This article in The Pillar tells the story of how Daphrose was a faithful Christian who raised her ten children in the faith despite her husband’s infidelity and the mockery he made of her witness and convictions.
As reported in aforementioned the article and also by the Emmanuel Community of which the couple eventually became members and founders of the Rwandan branch:
I still remember my utter perplexity at a so-called professor of Genocide Studies at a Canadian university having accused me of “voyeurism” for having travelled to Germany, Poland, and Rwanda on genocide study trips.
Now, I can see that such a bizarre accusation might stem from failing to see the way in which studying genocide properly can actually constitute an education in moral sense. By learning about perpetrators and meeting with rescuers and survivors, my friends and I with whom I studied and travelled encountered the moral drama of human action and responsibility in persons and deeds, not in mere systems or abstractions.
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.
Tomorrow, April 7th, is Genocide against the Tutsi Memorial Day.
Nine years ago, I participated in the Reflections on Rwanda program to study this genocide, especially through encountering rescuers and survivors and listening to their stories.
Some of my family and friends were not sure why I wanted to go on a genocide study a trip.
I even met a professor (of Genocide Studies, no less) who described travelling to the sites of historical genocides as voyeurism.