Today is the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, when nearly 1 million people were brutally killed in a horrific civil war.
Tribalism ran painfully deep for those involved- I read in my prayer book this morning that on visiting Rwanda on behalf of the Pope, one Cardinal spoke to some Rwandan church leaders, asking them: “Are you saying that the blood of tribalism is deeper than the waters of baptism?” One leader answered, “Yes, it is.”
Whenever I think of Rwanda, I think of a little boy. My parents began sponsoring a Rwandan child while I was in my teens. During this terrible time, they lost touch with him.
It was wonderful, later, that the sponsorship programme (then Tearfund, now joined with Compassion) found him. I believe he had lost many of his family members, but he himself survived. He’s now a man in his twenties, thus the correspondence between them ended a couple of years ago (this is Compassion policy once a child reaches 21).
Strange for me to think of 1994 – it was a year when I was lost in the muddles and miseries of growing up, and the year I first began to struggle with CFS/ME. I was coping with panic attacks and teenage crushes (probably not unrelated to each other!).The horror of the news reports felt oddly distant, another world. A preoccupied teenage girl in the West was in completely different circumstances from that Rwandan boy suffering through unspeakable loss.
I probably grieve more now than I did then, which is why it is helpful to remember, to reflect – when perhaps at the time the horror of it barely slid through the chinks of my life. I registered but did not understand, so tied up in my own adolescent world. I wish I could say otherwise.