Monday, September 05, 2005
SUNDAY: Last Day Before Heading Home
With our return back to Kigali once again we started a day with meetings, actually managing to get two more fast runner interviews in the schedule! Importantly, we had lunch with Felix of UNIFEM to map out the beginnings of our agreements. During a delicious barbeque (comped by the hotel thanks to some skillful negotiation by Delilah), we agreed that UNIFEM would host one-week business training for all the business leaders for each of the Rwanda Knits cooperatives. Bpeace will develop the curriculum and other fast runners will be able to attend as well. The training will be held at their Gitarma training center which will also host 40 Rwanda Knits machines
The afternoon was spent visiting two of the genocide memorials, at Ntarama and Nyamata. These memorials are around the country, maintained by survivors and are vivid remembrances of what occurred here.
In Kate's own words: "I went to Ntarama with Delilah, Maureen and Jita as well as with two Rwandans; Gilbert our driver and Geoffrey our guide and translator. After a long dusty ride through poor villages and miles and miles of barren land, we arrived at the site's front gate where we were greeted by its caretaker. My most vivid impression was how quiet this place now seemed. The only sound was the distant laughter of neighborhood children playing just outside and the occasional song bird.
It wasn't always so peaceful. Over three days 5000 people were murdered as they sought shelter in the little brick church and several out buildings on the grounds. Today Ntarama is cared for by an elderly man and his young assistant. As we stood in the church, the caretaker softly told us the story, which was his story too. His family was murdered in this place. He was one of 10 people who survived, and bears the physical and mental scars. It was a painful story to hear as we stood among the skulls of the victims in the ruins of this simple church. I wondered about the thoughts of Gilbert and Geoffrey and worried over their emotions.
The floor of one 10 by 12 room contains the ash where a small group were burned to death. Visitors walk in the midst of the ash. It is honored like all others as a burial place. The church has been left as it was after the horror of the three days. There are still bits of clothing, bones and piles of belongings through out the buildings. There is a ripped and stained poster of the last pope hanging on the wall. I looked up to the smashed church alter which sits under the jagged remains of a colored glass window and saw a leaning cross. I suspect many who visit here either feel mocked or comforted by the sight of the cross against this broken place of prayer.
Each of us had a deeply personal reaction to the sites we visited. Perhaps incredibly to some, I found Ntarama to be a place of peace despite the violent hatred and prejudice which created it. In the center of the grounds is a small stand of tall trees waving in the wind. They appeared as silent witness to what had happened here. Soon the trees will be joined by a memorial wall, a formal place of prayer and a garden.
The caretaker told us that he would forgive those murderers that asked him for it because he knew of no other answer. Forgiveness --- the greatest lesson toward a peaceful mankind is being taught by Rwandans all over the country. I will never forget their example or Ntarama. " Kate Buggeln
Our day ended with dinners at Aurea's and Joy's. Restorative evenings with wonderful food and socializing with new and old friends. Monday morning we will cram in some last meetings (and yes Kate is to go shopping again) and then begin our long journey home . . .