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April 7, 2010

Today is the beginning of the Memorial of the Genocide in Rwanda. For the next seven days, most government offices are closed, only some stores will be open half a day, and schools are out. However, during these seven days will represent much more than a public holiday.

Before living in Rwanda, my picture of a Memorial Day was what we do in America. We picnic, we go hit the sales at the mall, we view parades. Only some will go to a cemetery to visit the grave of a loved one. The exceptions are the families that have been directly impacted by a war. Until recently, I would have said only those families whose heritage was altered by WW2 or Vietnam. That realm of families have been broadened by the events in the Middle East. Still, the number of families burdened by remembrance is few in relation to America’s population. (All that is not to say that the pain they feel is any less important, please stay with me here. . . )

Perhaps, the reason the majority of Americans can have a picnic or shop on Memorial Day is because no one living there has had to witness a war fought in their front yard.

It was only sixteen years ago that almost a tenth of Rwanda’s population lay dead in the streets, rivers and farmlands. Only sixteen years. Everyone here remembers. Almost everyone here witnessed it with their own eyes. Children became orphans and watched it happen.

Let me tell you about a sweet girl I met yesterday.

Rosa is the only remaining member of her family. No parents, no aunts, uncles, cousins. No one.

What is she doing to “celebrate” this Memorial Week?

She is taking the recently recovered bones of her family back to their home town to re-bury them. She has already prepared the bones for burial.

Once the bones were identified as her parents’, Rosa herself had to wash them. Her hands had to cleanse the bones of the hands that once washed and caressed her as a baby.

Yes, let that thought sink in . . .

But you see, Rosa’s story is not unusual here. There are many that will have to relive the agony of losing their families sixteen years ago. There have been many strides made in this place to overcome the hopelessness that bathed the hills. Most days, you can go through your routine with little reminder of “the war”. But this week it can not be avoided. We must remember, we must feel the pain, we must cry. We must offer comfort, we must be love.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 7, 2010 8:03 pm

    Louise, I’m deeply moved by Rosa’s story. The image of her washing and carressing the bones of her own parents is hitting me in a deep place not recently touched. Less emotional words should still move me to pray for the citizens of Rwanda, but you’ve made it compelling and necessary through your words. Thank you and God bless you as you minister to many Rosas there in Kigali.
    Great is His faithfulness to us! –Lanny

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