Sorry It has taken me awhile to post this. First was really hard for me to write because it was so horrific to witness. Second I have been so busy I have not been able to write. These two memorials I visited last Monday. Sorry about the grammar again…
On Monday afternoon my classmates and I went to visit two memorials Ntarama and Nyamata. Our first site was Ntarama, a Roman catholic Church where over 5,000 women and children were massacred. In 1994, people fled to churches for refuge. With 90% of the population being Christian, people believed they would find sanctuary and refuge in Churches. However, they found no mercy, the churches became main targets for massacres. In the Ntarama church they threw grenades inside killing many people, then went in and killed the rest with machetes, clubs, spikes, guns, and spears. Outside of the church there was two other small buildings: a worship center and a sunday school. People were actually worshiping and singing when the killers came. They killed without mercy. They brought babies into the sunday school room where they smashed and threw the babies against the wall. The wall inside is still stained with blood. The sunday school room was also used to rape and mutilate women. As I am writing this I am shaking with the memories of the site. The church itself was literally filled with blood stained clothes, to show the significance of all the people that died.
The second site was another catholic church called Nyamata. 10,000 people were massacred in the church, but over 45,000 people are buried there. The Church was a lot bigger than the first one, but it was filled with tattered blood-stained clothes and bullet holes. Apparently, when the militia came, the people tried to bolt the door, however, the militia had bombs and busted open the door. They first threw a bunch of grenades inside, then they went in and killed the rest of the survivors. Please just think for a second…. ten thousand people that were brutally and unjustly killed. Can you fathom the thought? I don’t know about you but I cannot put into words the emotions that I am feeling.
When we went into the church there was a woman that was cleaning the floors. Her name was Saraphina and the pastor knew her. She was a survivor of the genocide and she was willing to share her story with us. However, in Rwanda, you do not talk about the genocide. If people knew she was talking about the genocide then she could have her house broken into. People in Rwanda keep each other in check. So we went down a dirt road to abandoned field. She only spoke Kinyarwanda, but pastor translated. Even though I could not understand what she was saying, her emotions and her facial expressions told the story. She and her family during the genocide ran all around the country, never finding a secure place. Her husband was taken from her, and killed right before her eyes. She and her children were able to flee, and they hid in the basement of the church. However, the militia knew they were and tried to stave them to death. By some miracle she escaped but throughout all the confusion her kids and her got separated. After the genocide she was reunited with her kids but she describe them as skeletons. She talked more about the horrific events that she saw, but she was often in tears when she described them. In the end she said “You may think I am alive, but I tell you I am dead. I am a dead person with walking legs.” This was too much for me, I was crying so hard. However, when I looked around everyone was crying as well. She told us that she wanted us to know her story and to spread it around. She told us she never wants anything like this to happen again so we need to keep her story alive. She embraced us all, and prayed with us. I took a picture with her.
I thank God that she shared her story, even though it was very hard to do. She is so brave and so beautiful. This genocide was awful, it destroyed so many lives. I honestly can’t put into words the feelings that I have. I know what I have shared with you is downright awful. However, it is part of history and we cannot ignore the past, we can learn from it. More women like Saraphina can be saved if we can spread the word on the atrocities of genocide. That is my prayer, and hopefully yours too, that genocide will never happen again.