Fragments of families – visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial was eye-opening for all of the participants at peace camp. Among the powerful exhibits were wall-to-wall photos of family members who had been killed: a mom, a son, an aunt, a cousin…row after row of victims. One section contained photos of babies and young children. Each had a small note card that listed their name, age, favourite food, favourite activity and how they were killed: thrown against a wall; hacked with a machete; shot in the head; thrown down an outside toilet…
It leaves you wondering about evil and injustice. How do you respond? With despair and a sense of futility? With anger and desire for revenge? Or with hope and determination to overcome evil with good?
On another wall were stories of people who helped their neighbours and others, often at great personal cost. I’m glad the memorial included this. It’s important to have this reminder of goodness at work even in the midst of evil – and that you have a personal choice to make. How do you wish to live? To go along with evil or to take a stand against it?
Seeing one of the young boys come and comfort the other (pictured above) is hope for Rwanda, for all of us. They symbolize a brotherhood that is possible and the willingness of youth to not only learn from past mistakes, but to also work together to build peace and community – a better life not just for themselves, but for each other. Empathy is a crucial building block in this process. Being able to listen to someone’s story or opinion or perspective builds empathy, dignity and respect. We hope that the peace camp opens up these safe spaces to share, learn and listen. To be able to talk to, not at, each other.
Back at camp, we had a time to reflect and share about the memorial visit. Here is one youth reflection from that day:
Yesterday when we went to the memorial site emotionally it took me back to a bad situation. Yes, it’s better to remember our history so that we can build a bright future, but when I looked on photos I saw one woman who was the older sister of our neighbour. I just saw her begging UN armies to save her and eventually they didn’t save her so that made me to be even more sad.
Also there was a small text which was on the side of a photo of General Dallaire who was a UN chief commander in Rwanda in 1994. It said that he wrote a letter to the UN headquarters showing the situation which was bad in Rwanda, but they didn’t authorize him to fight against genocide! So that text message also made me very sad. So though I read some text messages of UN chambers negotiating what they didn’t do to save people, this should make the whole world not repeat the same mistake.
So from these things I was very sad, but it also makes me to be strong and say ‘NEVER AGAIN’.
Music soothes the soul…later that afternoon, youth gathered to sing somgs of love, peace and unity. Listen to one song.
For more youth peace media, see Change Poems.
Paulette Baraka/Peace Camp 2012: Some emotional hurts are lighter, don’t last long and are more visible than others; while some are deep wounds, hard to see, long-lasting, buried within, and surface in a variety of ways and behaviours.
Don’t you think we’ve had enough extreme hate in our world? Time for some extreme loving!
To help youth cope with what they saw and felt at the memorial, and to be able to better understand each other, we had a session on trauma and mental health led by psychologist Paulette Baraka. At the heart of her teaching is belief in the dignity and value of each person. And that God can heal any wound in life.
We believe that helping youth to discover inner peace, to know that they are created in God’s image, loved by God, is an important step in life and in any peace-building. For it’s only in knowing deep in your heart and mind that you are truly loved and valued, that you can treat others in the same way – with love and respect. And have the strength to not be overcome by evil, but instead to conquer evil by doing good. Join us.
p.s. We’re busy working on exciting plans for Peace Camp 2013. More details to be posted shortly along with updates from youth peace clubs and some of their activities during this time of the 19th Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi.
Photos: Johnny Lam Photography/A Peace of Life. All rights reserved.