Apr 6, 2014

20 years since the tragedy in Rwanda

Today marks 20th anniversary of beginning of the genocide in Rwanda. On 6 April, 1994, then president of Rwanda, Mr.Juvénal Habyarimana, was killed with the president of Burundi when their plane was shot down by unknown party while approaching Kigali airport.  After this assassination of two presidents, the genocide began on 7th April. More than eight hundred thousand people were killed. Some claim the number reaches one million.

It is said that the reason of killing was ethnic hatred between minority Tutsi and majority Hutu. However, it is not so simple. What we can say now is that political motivation took advantage of human emotion and instigated simple people to hate each other and kill each other. This could happen any where in a world even today. International society has to learn a lesson from the Rwanda genocide case otherwise some kind of ethnic hate killing may happen any time in any where.

I was sent to a refugee camp in Bukavu, then Zaire, in March, 1995 and stayed there for 2 months as a coordinator of Caritas Japan. That was my first encounter with Rwanda issues and also my first assignment with Caritas Japan.  (Photo above is myself in 1995 in Birava camp over looking Rwanda behind me over lake Kivu)
During my stay there, our camp was attacked by unidentified armed group and more than 30 refugees were killed. Caritas Japan team, two Sisters and two priests, were not hurt. It was a horrible experience of 2 hours of shooting which I will never forget. At the end of the shooting, the armed group bombed a storeroom of medicine in the camp clinic. I will never forget the sound and shake of that bombing. I was so shocked that I had difficulty to hold flashlight for a Japanese Sister of Caritas Japan who was a nurse attending those refugees who were shot. Blood all over.

We really have to ask why and how these ordinary people could kill their neighbours or even family members because of ethnic differences. Do we really hate and kill each other because we belong to different ethnic group. What is the difference in ethnicity to begin with? It is political agenda of certain group which took advantage of human emotion of self-identification of belongingness. Colonial government took advantage of it before independence and military dictatorship took advantage of that emotion. Radio broadcast was said to be one of the cause of instigating people to kill others. That would be true but radio broadcast alone can not motivate people to kill. Killing has long preparation behind and accumulation of several factors to increase fear among people against other ethnic group without clear reasons. Probably fear does not need clear reasoning. I guess, that is exactly what is happening in several developed countries, not in Africa, today including my home country, Japan.   

As we know, Rwanda is quite a Christian country. From the experience of Church in Rwanda we may say that we have to put more and more energy to proclaim Gospel message of love, mercy and forgiveness to people in our respected country. Because even in country like Rwanda where quite majority are Catholics, such horrible incident could not be stopped. If so, then, we really have to work hard to evangelise our culture so that such tragedy could be prevented in future.  

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