Today we went to a reconciliation village where perpetrators and survivors of the genocide live together intentionally. We had the honor of hearing testimonials from people on both sides. Hands down it was one of the most powerful places of healing I have ever been. It was one thing to hear about Rwanda's reconciliation process, and another entirely to witness it in person. These two sides not only live in proximity to each other, but also share their resources and work together for the good of their village. If a survivor has a cow that gives birth, they will give that calf to a perpetrator and their family so they can feed their children with the milk. Reconciliation goes so much deeper than restoration - These people belong to the same community.
The testimonials we heard were from a woman whose family was killed during the genocide, and a man who killed 5 of her family members. After the reconciliation process, the woman eventually forgave the man for what he did, and they now live in harmony together. Even now I have chills typing this out. To see the living, breathing proof of forgiveness on such a deep level was genuinely profound
Something that has stuck with me all day is how both testimonials began with the words "the genocide happened. It was real." Those that spoke emphasized our duty to bring the truth about the genocide back to America with us. They also said that they hoped their stories would help teach our country about forgiveness and healing. I couldn't help but think of all the ways our country is broken, and the stark difference between government's handling of our country's darkest actions. We have a lot to learn from the courage and the honesty that defines this country . I know that I'll remember what I saw and heard today for the rest of my life, and I hope in my own small way I can continue to honor these stories and allow them to inspire and fuel a better future.
I was in awe of this place before, and I am truly blown away now.
A short post tonight because we spent the day at Azizi life - a day in a typical Rwanda village - and I am positively exhausted. A wonderful host family took us into their homes and their lives for the day. We did work in their fields, fetched water, ate a bountiful, avocado filled lunch, made candles, and participated in a cow-gifting ceremony. Afterwards we got to purchase artisan crafts made by people from the village.
The families we visited with embraced us with open arms and lots and lots of kindness (and patience). I feel humbled by the hard work that they do every single day, especially seeing how tired I am by participating in a small fraction of it.
It was also so special to spend some time outside and connect with the earth in this beautiful place.
That's all for tonight as I'm taking some time to rest up for the rest of the week- we travel to Huye tomorrow!
(And because my words are in short supply tonight, here's a picture that can barely begin to capture how stunning this country is)
I am a teaching artist and the social media coordinator for The Anne Frank Project, as well as a Buffalo State College alum, with a Bachelors in Theater Arts. I have worked with AFP as a student, intern, and now staff member, and am so proud to be a part of this team. Going to Rwanda is a dream, and I’m most looking forward to being immersed in the rich and amazing story of the country and it’s people.