"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


in spite of that, we call this Friday good

Today is a solemn day, not only because it's Good Friday, but also because it's the 13th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide. On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi back from peace talks in Arusha, Tanzania, was shot down over the presidential palace, killing both presidents. It was a sign to the Interhamwe militias that the well-planned genocide should begin. Over the next 100 days, 800,000 Rwandans were killed. Most of the victims were Tutsi, but moderate Hutus and those who tried to shelter their Tutsi friends and neighbors were executed as well.

The world stood by while this happened. We knew. We knew before it happened. The head of the UN peacekeeping mission knew that something was not right in Rwanda as early as January 1994. His requests for more assistance and more authority were almost uniformly rejected.

We knew. We knew while it was happening. I remember sitting in a high school classroom, watching Channel One, and wondering why the world wasn't stopping this. New Zealand pushed the Security Council to do more, but their efforts were rebuffed, especially by the United States, which didn't want to get involved in another African conflict after Somalia.

We knew. We sat by while 800,000 people needlessly died.

Last year I visited the Kigali Genocide memorial. You can read about that visit here. In the memorial, you see photographs, thousands of photographs, of mothers and fathers and children, of grandparents and brothers and cousins and sisters. You also see bones. The Rwandans are determined that no one will ever be able to deny that their genocide happened, so they have preserved victims' bones throughout the country.

It is fitting that this solemn anniversary coincides with a solemn Good Friday. Thirteen years ago this week, thousands of Rwandans took shelter in the churches, where they were murdered anyway. The country was almost entirely Christianized, and they murdered anyway. The only possible comfort I can take in thinking about this story is the knowledge that God heard their cries, that God understands what it is like to suffer unjustly, that God knew what it feels like to die a horrible death, that God holds accountable those who are responsible for such crimes. May we remember that, and may we commit ourselves this Friday to stopping the genocides that are going on as we stand by.



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