Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Genocide aftermath - Nyamata Today

The Nyamata Genocide Memorial Site was a Catholic Church at Nyamata in the Bugesera region.  It is about 30 kilometres south of the capital Kigali.  Today the original church building is preserved, with the clothes of the victims piled up on the benches.  Some of the weapons such machetes are laid out on the altar.  The walls and ceilings remain riddled with bullet holes.  Skulls and bones are piled in several underground chambers. They are literally in your face as you walk through the narrow alleys.  This is presumably to make sure the images are seared so deep into your memory that you will never forget them.  

The church itself has moved to another building next door.  When we exited the memorial site, people were leaving the church.  They wore colourful clothes, and were as happy as any church congregation on a Sunday. As it turned out, they were probably more joyful than usual.  Ten minutes later, we found some of the people arriving at a wedding reception outside a hotel nearby.   

At first, the juxtaposition of disturbing images of victims’ clothing, skulls and bones on the one hand, and the gaiety of a church crowd and a wedding tent on the other hand seemed jarring.  After a while, the thought emerged that people, not matter how badly hurt, have to continue to live - including going to church, and getting married.  Without going through what they have gone through, it is difficult for us to fully understand how they feel.  But it does bring up another surprising aspect of the Genocide.


YTSL said...

I hope that what happened in Nyamata in 1994 will never happen again in that town -- or, for that matter, in others. It's always astounding to realize how horrible humans can be -- and also how wonderful humans can also be.

StephenC said...

That's my prayer as well. I have been there 3 times in the past 2 years. Probably the only Chinese person to do that.