Rwanda Genocide “Never Again”

Posted: December 19, 2010 in Evidence Material
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By Craig Geddes

It was such a hot day and I stepped into the JAM vehicle, placed my laptop in the back seat and I looked at my friend and Project Manager with a heavy but expectant heart. She looked at me and asked, “Are you sure you want to go?” I looked at her and said “Absolutely. It’s too important to forget”.

The night before I had walked down the steps and looked over the city skyline of a place that had seen more heartache, more pain and more bloodshed that any of us can imagine. I undid the tightness of my tie and I breathed a heavy sigh as I walked into the Memorial Centre. I was in Rwanda and I was about to hear from one of this world’s unsung hero’s. I walked around the memorial and listened to the horrifying accounts of women raped by their neighbors, wives dismembered by their husbands and grandmothers abandoned by their families in the middle of piles of bodies. I walked through the entire memorial with relative shock and yet quiet composure until I stopped at the top of the steps of the 2nd floor. I turned the corner and entered the “Children’s Room”.  It was about 4pm and I stood there alone staring at young David’s face, larger than life and smiling. The plaque underneath his picture stated: David, Age 3, Favorite Food: Potatoes, Favorite Person: Dad, Death: Killed by Machete. This was the Genocide….

I cried and cried and cried. I cried for these children, I cried for these families and I cried for myself. Why? Because only due to the fact that I was born to Alastair and Kathryn Geddes was I not one of them. Only due to the fact that I was born somewhere else was my favorite food not on this plaque.

I sat down in a cold, brown chair in the front of the room and waited for the speaker to arrive. I have met President Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger and many others, yet, deep down in my soul, I knew that the strength of the person I was about to meet could match no other. He was a man about my age who stood at the front and for an hour and a half poured out his heart to the 4 of us whom had taken the time to come listen. While Hollywood was buzzing with paparazzi ridden dance clubs, New York was rushing through the usual financial day, Atlanta had some new “real housewives” purchasing Ferrari’s  and Orlando was streaming thousands of children through Space Mountain, this one man was describing his thoughts the moment he, at age 12, carried his dead neighbors across the blood stained road. As tears rolled down my cheeks, he described the moment he saw a 3 month old baby tossed into a pile of rubble and the minute he realized that his friends were now his enemies. When I was 12, I was riding a bike and playing hide and seek, when he was 12, he was hiding hoping never to be found. As the time of sharing came to a close, I stood up to go and apologize to him. I wanted to apologize for what America, Europe and the world never did that fateful month in 1994. I stood and couldn’t compose the words to say, I couldn’t tell him through the tears and the shame. Finally the words came out, “I am sorry” and with strength in his voice, he responded, “the past is the past”. Then showing the ultimate measure of grace, he gave me a ride home.

The next day, the Project Manager and I got out of the car after I reassured her that I was ready and I looked around the dust filled, eerily silent town. Draped in purple commemorating the month of April, the church sat in front of me as an ominous yet unimposing structure. I walked through the gate, signed the book and stepped in to the tiny chapel. My breath was immediately gone, my heart shattered and my mind in shock. I was now standing in the church in Nyamatta where 10,000 people were murdered in one room during the Genocide. One room.  One church room. Nothing had been changed except the bodies removed. My nicely polished brown dress shoes shuffled down the aisle of a sanctuary through piles and piles of blood stained clothes and up to the front. There on the wall was Mary’s blood splattered face and on the altar was a stained machete. In the horrendous power of this space, one could almost hear the screams of children and mothers as they endured pain that no human was ever made to endure. I stood as the light streamed in through the bullet holes in the roof and I couldn’t even cry.

We don’t even understand. We don’t even realize.  While we live our relatively innocuous lives in our amazingly comfortable homes with our incredibly convenient jobs, children are being murdered, wars are being waged, mothers are fighting for the last corn kernels soaked in mud and innocence is being stolen. ……. Never Again.

Those were the 2 famous words that President Clinton spoke in regards to the horrifying events of the 30 days in April of 1994… and those words can not be forgotten.

They must spur action in Darfur, change in the Congo, assistance in Zimbabwe, help in Haiti, freedom in Burma.

As I stood in one of the most horrifyingly violated churches peering over a tiny pair of Air Jordans, I knew one thing: that Never Again can no longer be a cliché, it can no longer be a political balm to unconscionable inaction, it must be only one thing….and that is a promise.


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