Text by Patty Simon | Images by Dick Simon
“How can I ever Forgive? Really, it is absurd and anyone who says they can forgive is not being truthful to himself!” said by our guide and now friend, JP, after spending many days with him visiting the place he was shot, hid for almost 3 months, where his father was murdered, where they found his bones, the house the rest of his family died in, the church in town where 11,000 were killed with the blessing of the priest and the group grave where we paid our respects.
I just finished reading “Running the Rift” by Naomi Benaron – a novel that depicts this period of history. We had dinner with the director of the Kigali Genocide Memorial and Center and I was able to fact check what I was reading and found it was true down to every detail. I am now reading “We wish to inform you that Tomorrow we will be Killed with our Families” by Philip Gourevitch.
As I drive through the countryside or go to a market, I wonder “who did what?” I imagine myself driving at night and being pulled over by my neighbors and friends – the very people I knew all my life and suddenly feeling the machete. Death! Instant… Wiping out my ‘belonging’ to this very country I thought I was a part of. I became a “cockroach” – a hated creature to be slaughtered.
I view myself as someone who can relate to suffering and offer understanding and support. In this country I have met my match! I have asked a thousand whys??? I keep reading about the history, the reasons written, and just like the Holocaust, I cannot relate to the horrific, senseless, violent, overwhelming action of genocide… a systematic plan to kill a “group” of men, women, and children. I told JP it is just too BIG- unthinkable. A human being is not made to process that much death, that much trauma, that much loss, so quickly.
And, so, as optimistic as a I am, as much as I believe in my own Project – “You are Loved – Pass It On”, how can I look JP in his eyes and not agree with him. This kind of murder with intent and ignorance seems unforgivable.
Life does go on! JP says, “I cannot put this aside, I must carry the loss and sorrow always with me… If I see my father’s murderer in the street and he greets me, I simply tell him to go away. I am not your friend or forgiver. Stay away from me as I might hurt you. I do not want to be a killer like you. I have my future and my wife and children.”
All of this talk of the genocide is the unspoken underbelly of the country. President Kagame has outlawed the distinguishing of Hutu and Tutsi and people do not speak of 1994. That is why it was so wonderful to have the opportunity to learn from JP. Rwandans are moving on with “living” – building, educating, and developing. Kigali is clean and modern and bustling!