Our goal for the afternoon was the National Genocide Memorial in Gisozi, just outside Kigali. It was a powerful experience, extremely professional, factual, with personal stories, videos, photos. What struck me most was the first-person plural point of view, rather than a dry historical style, the events were told "We were colonized . . . we were told . . . ". There were copies of the identity cards issued by the Belgians in 1932 which began to divide Tutsi and Hutu, copies of the Hutu 10 commandments, the pamphlets that led up to an organized and systematic horror. There was the report sent to the UN months prior to the genocide which warned of imminent disaster, and was ignored. There were photos from the insides of churches where hundreds, even thousands, of bodies decomposed. There were a few display cases of the farm implements, machetes, chains, weapons, and actual news footage of the carnage. There were stories of heros, an elderly lady who hid potential victims in her animal sheds then pretended to be possessed in order to scare away the Interhamwe death squads, the man who managed to get 400 children to safety. There was an entire room where hundreds of family photos were hung on strings of clips, poor quality serious typical photos, of relatives lost, real people not numbers. There was a section devoted to the truth-and-reconciliation community-based court system called gacaca, where thousands and thousands of perpetrators have been tried. The atmosphere was somber, with some stained glass windows and sculptures, and even gardens transforming the mass graves. The message is clear: this was a human tragedy on an unimaginable scale, the trauma has warped an entire generation, and we must keep the memory alive, educating and proclaiming as a means of prevention. A disturbing history, but one we wanted our kids to encounter, something that happened within Luke's lifetime and not very far away. Jesus said the truth would make us free.
Back in Kigali we explored, found the hotel upon with the "Hotel Rwanda" movie was based. We bought cheese, crackers, and imported grapes and made an impromptu picnic by a spectacular fountain in a small park in the center of the city, which made us feel like we were real tourists in Europe instead of dusty missionaries in Africa (memorable!). The city is clean, low-rise, quiet. In our guidebook we found a reasonably cheap hotel, in an obscure corner of the city, up on a hill, peeling paint and past-its-prime but a good resting place for the night.