Sunday, April 6, 2014

Rwandan genocide 20th anniversary

Today is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide, and is an international day of mourning for those who died.  Before the world realized what was happening, this self-described Christian nation in the heart of Africa developed a kind of social madness and hundreds of thousands of people were killed, countless atrocities were perpetrated, families were disrupted or destroyed, and the nation was forever changed. 

Rwanda has three castes or tribes. The largest are the Hutu (traditionally farmers), then the less populous Tutsi (traditionally cattle ranchers), and Twa ( Pygmy forest dwellers). Longstanding conflict between the groups erupted, and the Hutu majority attempted to eradicate the Tutsi and Hutu moderates.  According to Wikipedia, "During the approximate 100-day period from April 7, 1994 to mid-July, an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed,[1]constituting as much as 20% of the country's total population and 70% of the Tutsi then living in Rwanda." The attempt to eliminate the Tutsi was very nearly successful. 

What is still so hard for me to believe is that the genocide was well underway before the rest of the world took note and tried to intervene. We didn't notice. If we had, we could have done more. We could have saved more. 

As I've thought about that brief time twenty years ago, I've wondered what I was doing that was so much more important. I had a busy medical practice, a failing marriage, and a son who was just a toddler. I was preoccupied. I had no idea what else was happening in the world. Besides, what difference could one woman make?  I'm going to have a hard time explaining those excuses one day. We all are. 

History is full of examples of how one man or one woman took note of an injustice and made a tremendous difference. Noah, Moses, the apostle Paul, and William Tyndale are just a few of the people who have singlehandedly impacted the world. What we never seem to realize is that one man or woman on their knees and interceding for a nation, for a situation, can also have tremendous impact. I wonder what God would have done in Rwanda if there had been a concert of prayer in churches across America at the very beginning of the conflict.

What worries me is how easily and how quickly the genocide happened in the Christian nation of Rwanda. Could it happen here? Yes, it could. John Stewart Mill once said, "Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing". That is exactly how the Rwandan genocide happened. Unless good men (and women) decide to stop looking on and start becoming involved in the fight against injustice, it could happen again, if not in Rwanda then somewhere. 

What can you do? Decide that you are through being a bystander. Take note of what is happening around the world. When you recognize injustice, begin to fight against it by hitting your knees to pray, then taking a stand against the wrong you see. Write letters, make calls, recruit help from friends and family, do something!  You may think you can't make a difference, but Tyndale probably thought that, too. 

Be the good man or woman who looks on and takes a stand, then do not budge when evil tries to push it's way past. Be the one who makes a difference.