Sunday 6th April 2014 was the 20th anniversary of the start of the genocide in Rwanda. Over the course of 100 days following the assassination of the Rwandan president, at least 800,000 people were massacred, and hundreds of thousands more forced to flee into neighbouring countries.
But this period also saw many incredible acts of bravery from individuals protecting their neighbours, and a tremendous show of solidarity and compassion from the Catholic community in England and Wales, which raised £6 million for CAFOD’s relief effort without CAFOD even launching an appeal. In the 20 years since the genocide, we have also seen a quite remarkable process of forgiveness and reconciliation in communities torn apart by the awful violence of 1994.
A CAFOD Nottingham volunteer, Liz Doona, reflects:
“Thinking back twenty years to the time when the news of the atrocities in Rwanda broke onto our television screens brought to mind one of the pivotal moments in my journey of faith.
It was while contemplating the horrors that were unfolding that I knew that Jesus wept. Just as he wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus, so he wept at each and every one of the deaths in Rwanda. He wept at the overwhelming cruelty, he wept at the scale of the brutality and he wept for the love that was lost.
It was at that time that I knew that being a Christian meant being the eyes, the hands and the voice of Christ on earth today. Working for peace and justice, working to create God’s kingdom on earth was not an option of my faith but an imperative, however small my contribution turned out to be.
Stories continued to reach us over the interim years, not only of the scale of the disaster, but also of the strength and courage of the survivors, particularly those women left to rebuild their communities, left to care for the children who no longer had a family, left to heal those who had been brutally damaged and left to work for the justice that they all deserved.
So it was a privilege, as a member of my parish CAFOD group to get to know a few of these incredible women as part of our Connect2 link up with Rwanda, to receive messages from the women from the village of Musha and to make a small contribution to their recovery.
CAFOD has now bid farewell to the village of Musha, moving on to new demands. A final update came at Christmas with a message from Berina, “I thank you very much and ask that you always remember us, care and love us as you always have from the beginning since we were first introduced.” Thank you, Berina, we will and it is a privilege to do so.”