We all know what happened in Rwanda in 1994. Some say 500,000 people were massacred in 100 days. Others say the number is closer to 800,000.
But these are numbers. Just statistics from another country. Marks on pieces of paper.
Babies we never saw laugh,
eyes we never looked into,
hands we never touched.
We looked away in 1994. We keep looking away from all the Rwandas in the world today.
We’re afraid of what we’ll see if we look. Eyes and smiles and hands and hearts and hopes like ours. Terror just like ours would be if we were faced with the same circumstances. Broken hearts and lives – just like ours would be if we were faced with the same circumstances.
We’re afraid if we really look – really recognise these people and see ourselves in their frightened eyes – we won’t be able to keep telling ourselves that the hole in the boat doesn’t matter.
That the water rising around our ankles is nothing.
That we’re not going down with the ship.
That tomorrow it might be our turn to have our suffering be a matter of indifference to people who might help us.
I am reading Shake Hands With the Devil – Roméo Dallaire’s book about the Rwandan massacre. This is what he says in the Preface –
The following is my story of what happened in Rwanda in 1994. It’s a story of betrayal, failure, naiveté, indifference, hatred, genocide, war, inhumanity and evil…In just one hundred days over 800,000 innocent Rwandan men, women and children were brutally murdered while the developed world, impassive and apparently unperturbed, sat back and watched the unfolding apocalypse or simply changed channels…(1)
I wonder what might happen in the world if we didn’t change channels or looking away?
(1) Shake Hands With the Devil, Roméo Dallaire, Preface, xvii
Photograph – http://fp.seattleschools.org/SmartTools/genocide/rwanda/pictures.htm