Nyamata: How Now Shall I Live?

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I can’t imagine anymore.

Visiting the Nyamata Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda was the most sobering experience in my life. There really is no way to describe what it was like to walk these grounds other than an overwhelming numbness that begins to take over from the sheer horror that happened here.

Wikipedia has this to say about the site:

“The Rwanda Genocide began in April 1994. Many Tutsi people gathered here as churches were considered a place of safety. 10,000 people gathered here and the people locked themselves in. The church walls today show how the perpetrators made holes in the walls of the church so that grenades could be thrown into the church. After this the people inside were shot or killed with machetes. The ceiling of the church shows the bullet holes and the alter cloth is still stained with blood. Most of the remains have been buried but clothing and identity cards are left. The identity cards were what identified people as either Tutsi or Hutu.

People in the surrounding area were also killed after the massacre at the church. 50,000 are buried here.”

With every bullet hole in the ceiling to the piles upon piles of clothing stacked up onto the pews, you could feel the sheer horror that once filled this place. And as we further toured the grounds, we made our way to an underground cellar of sorts where skulls upon skulls in remembrance were carefully placed in their final resting place.

I remember reading a place card explaining what we were seeing and how to determine how that person had been killed. Whether it be a bullet hole in the head, a spear through the head or even a machete to the head. Skull after skull after skull.

I have no words.

My stomach aches. My mind is numb. I can no longer comprehend. How can this be?

The next day and not much farther down the road, we went to another church. But this time to sing, to dance, and to celebrate life. This is all too surreal, the resilience of these people. For the adults, this was not even a lifetime ago when such horror occurred.

But to rise up and live despite such pain, anguish, and memory is to redefine for me the very barriers I have placed within my own mind, that of which, have long sought to hold me back.

I have no excuse.

 

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