Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Sanctuary

The following pics are from two different genocide memorials we visited. Both places were churches, sanctuaries of hope, for people surrounded by death. The sanctuaries became a place of prayer, hope, fear, and eventually death. In one church, 5,000 dead, in the other 10,000.

What makes these deaths so horrible, was the manner in which they died. Though you can see bullet and grenade holes in these pics, most people died less mercifully... by machetes, files or knives. The stories of death were a bit overwhelming. It puzzles me to think of the evil we are capable of as human beings. But it also gives me great hope of the good we are also capable of. The stories of genocide included stories of death and evil, but also of miracles and bravery.

The first pic is looking from within one of the sanctuaries. This was the original steel door, that was locked from within. During the genocide the door was ripped apart and the killings began. It takes a long time to kill 10,000 people. Sometimes it would take 24 hours or more. The genocidaires would get tired, go outside and rest, eat, build a camp fire. Once rested they would return to finish the work.

The lone coffin, in the picture, was located at one of the sites. They said she was a woman that many people respected in the village. She was raped several times, a pole was stuck through her and she died. These are but a few of the stories that make up the genocide. The final picture (of this post) is of some of the belongings people had, including one of the ID cards required by all Rwandans to have prior to the genocide. Each card identified the person as Hutu or Tutsi. The ID card was originally issued by the colonizers to help divide and conquer the Rwandan people. Tutsi were put in power of the Hutu's and the bitterness and hatred was birthed. Eventually the Hutu's gained power and the genocide was the result of years of hatred.

The following pics on this blog are of clothes that still remain in each of the sanctuaries. There is a musty smell in the air, and one can hardly imagine what the place would have looked like with the people still in the clothes.

There is also the original blood soaked altar with some tools of death found at the site. Such a memorial is very difficult to visit, but it tells us a very important story that we must never forget.

-chris lahr
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