Day 97: Forgiveness.

Yet, only years after the Nazi-era, millions were sent to their deaths in places such as Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda, and the world once again took too long to act. (Allyson Schwartz)

Today is the 20th Anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide. 100 days of brutality that led to the loss of upwards of a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus — those who would not go along with the ethnic fervor. As the world watched, or chose not to, a country turned in on itself and one of the most brutal periods in human history since the Jewish genocide in Nazi Germany ensued.

I remember not knowing, not paying attention to what was happening there. I was newly married, raising my teenage stepchildren, working 50 plus hours a week at a demanding job with a long commute, too busy trying to keep my head above water to pay attention to what was happening a world away. But I still feel haunted by the fact that I should have known, should have called on our country to do something. We should have known.

file000871375277

Too many Americans (like me) only learned about this genocide after the fact — by watching Hotel Rwanda. We were busy with our own stuff, our own challenges and grief and busy lives to tune into what was happening on the other side of the world. We were horrified that nothing was done to stop it. We were horrified by the brutality that was portrayed on the big screen.

But the brutality that we watched in the comfort of our theaters and our homes was nothing compared to what really happened. While many movies need to add violence to feed our addiction to that stimulation (I’ll save that topic for another blog post), this movie could not be as brutal or as violent as reality. We could not have been able to watch it if it had hit closer to the mark.

Yesterday in my sermon, I mentioned this in relation to the lectionary text for the day, Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones. I can’t really imagine how you can move forward after such a horrific time in your country’s past, in your family’s past, in your own past. How is it that you can keep moving forward with the ghost’s of your past so close on your heels?

In a word, forgiveness. People have asked for and received forgiveness, and this has allowed them to move forward. May we learn something about offering and receiving forgiveness from these courageous survivors. To learn more, go to: http://www.rwandanstories.org/recovery/building_peace.html.