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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Shaking Hands with the Devil

"Shake Hands with the Devil" is a book written by Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the leader of the peace keeping force during the time of the genocides in Rwanda. Aptly named, it tells of the horror of the Rwandan Genocides, throught the eyes of a man who tried so desperately to help but could do little due to the restaints of the UN.
Yesterday I was able on some level to graps the pain and suffering that the people here endured, when Jen and I went to visit the Rwandan Genocide Memorial Site.
Overwhelming to say the least. This site was a beautiful memorial to a dark and ugly time in these peoples history.
There were 2 levels of the building. The bottom dedicted to the Rwandan Genocides and the top to the genocides that occurred in other places all over the world.
There were 4 hallways on the bottom floor that formed a circle. The sections were divided into, Rwandan History, Pre-genocide events, the Genocide, and Post Genocides. As I walked through each hall I couldn't help but be moved but the pain and suffering that these people have endured. I couldn't help but wonder how people could do this to there fellow man and how we the 'superpowers' of this world did NOTHING! Which is worse...to kill...or not to care??
To be completely honest I had never heard of the horrifing events that took place here 11 years ago until I decided to come to Rwanda.

In early April the president's plane was shot down and soon after the killings began. Perhaps more worse than killing someone is the inhuman way that most people were killed. Being shot was a nice way to die where other people were literally hacked to death with machettes, bludgeoned with clubs or any hard object, stabbed, thrown into septic systems, and burried alive. Entire families were completely destroyed, leaving no record that they ever even existed. People who were once friends turned to kill there neighbour or else be killed themselves. The propaganda on the radio fuelled scared people into killers. Fearing for there own lives and the lives of their families, they took the lives of others.

After passing through the 4 hallways I came we came to 3 other rooms. I was overcome when I walked into the first room that was full of pictures of victims. Wedding pictures, smiling faces, happy times, taken away in an instant. Through out the tour they were video clips from victims, you could see the pain in their eyes.
The next room housed scull bones and long bone from arms and legs, I didn't stay there long. The last room was particularly impacting. There were displays of clothing that the victims had been wearing. As I walked by looking at the clothes I came to one shirt that hit me like a slap in the face. It read "OTTAWA" and "I LOVE CANADA". Somehow seeing that shirt gave me some ownership. The country I love so much did little to help. I was somewhat ashamed. I realized why these people looked so apprehensively at me. Trust is a luxury that they can not have. They don't trust anyone.

As we moved from the bottom floor to the top floor I saw images on the walls from WW2 and the Holacost. From Bosnia and Cambodia. So many places around the world have been ripped apart by hatred. I thought of my grandparents who fought in WW2. I thanked God for being born in Canada, to a family that loves me and provides for me. For close friends who I trust. For every blessing that I don't deserve.

The last room and probably the hardest to walk through was a room dedicated to the children lost in the genocides. There faces so young and sweet and their lives so violently and unjustly taken from them. There were about 10-15 blown up pictures of beautiful children and below each picture was a plaque stating thing like their age, fav. food, toy, the last or one of the last things they said, and how they died. The brutally these children saw made me sick to my stomach. Beaten with club, stabbed in the head and eyes, burned alive, hacked with machettes. It was unbelievable, yet I know it happened. I am not telling you this because I was to gross you out or make you sad, but to help people become aware of how we had a part in this. We didn't even look saddly at them and say oh no, we completely turned our backs and forgot about them.
The one saving grace from Canada was Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who in the face of evil did everything he could to try and save these people. He still suffers today from post-traumatic stress.

It seems so clearly to me that both Dallaire and the people of Rwandan need to find the freedom that comes only from a relationship with Christ. Please continue to pray for me as I try to share that with these people.

I love you all.
Many blessings,

"Dear children, don't let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it is because they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows they belong to the Devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil. Those who have been born into God's family do not sin, because God's life is in them. So they can't keep on sinning, because they have been born of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the Devil. Anyone who does not obey God's commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God."
1 John 3: 7-10

"Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord, even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."
1 John 3:18-20


  • At 8:34 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The pain and suffering that the Rwanda people have faced int he past sounds tremendous, something we can't fully understand in the comforts of our home and native land of Canada. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of the reality that is being face amongst your work.
    Love ya, and keeping you in my prayers! -Angie
    PS,....Do you have a snail mail adress available?!?! Do share!!

  • At 10:39 AM , Anonymous Theresa said...

    Erin -

    Just last weekend I watched "Hotel Rwanda", which was released last Tuesday. This doesn't even scratch the surface of what I know happened there. Watching was especially hard because I know that many of the things the Rwandan people endured, are the same things endured by the Sierra Leoneans. The beginning of the movie shows pictures of African cities (supposedly Kigali before the genocide), and it reminded me so much of SL.

    Like you, I cannot even believe that someone could be so cruel to another human being. The things people suffered in SL appall me. Some of the most horrific examples that I have heard, and yet cannot wrap my mind around include how the rebels went into villages and had people draw pieces of paper, and whatever paper they drew, if it said "Left hand", they would have that body part hacked off by a machete. Another thing, and prolly the most disguisting of all, was the rebels would cut the baby out of the belly of a pregnant woman, boil it and eat it....WHO DOES THAT?

    The saddest thing too, is that we, in North America, also turned our backs. The war started in 1990, and no help came until 2000. That is ridiculous. Except, I don't know what to do to help the situation. The Sudan is on the verge of having the same thing happen.

    And let me forewarn you about something: Even though you are not rich, you will see the poverty suffered by so many children, and you will want to bring every one of them home, knowing that you could provide so much for a child, and it will rip your heart out to know you can't.

    I will definitely be praying for you as you are just starting an adventure that will be so incredible, and yet so heartbreaking.



  • At 7:03 PM , Anonymous Sue said...

    I'm so grateful that you had a safe and uneventful trip to Rwanda, it was very good news to hear. Your blog today made me realize the gravity of the situation there and how ignorant the rest of the world can be. I know though that with your strength, kindness, and spirit you will bring a smile to some of those faces that have suffered for so long. I'll be thinking of you every day!!! Sue :)

  • At 7:03 PM , Anonymous Sue said...

    I'm so grateful that you had a safe and uneventful trip to Rwanda, it was very good news to hear. Your blog today made me realize the gravity of the situation there and how ignorant the rest of the world can be. I know though that with your strength, kindness, and spirit you will bring a smile to some of those faces that have suffered for so long. I'll be thinking of you every day!!! Sue :)

  • At 7:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    erin!! man, what can i say after that? i wont even try.
    stay safe, and my prayers and thoughts are with you and all the people of the world who aren't as fortunate as i.
    love ya!


  • At 9:49 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    What an experience erin, man unbelieveable what people can do to other people who are basically just like themselves!!! Thankyou for sharing your eye-opening experience with us, because it has be an eye-opening experience for me too. If everyone had opportunities to walk through something like that then maybe we would be quicker to respond to crys for help from around the world.
    love ya and keep sharing
    Heidi 8)

  • At 5:51 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Erin, how ya doin' down there? (or is it up? I never was good at geography...) Anyways just wanted to stop by and let you know that you are often in my thoughts and prayers. Can't wait to hear more from you about your time in Rwanda! Love ya!


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