Genocide—People or Numbers?
Two weeks ago I was in Rwanda. Thursday, April 7, was the Memorial Day for Genocide Remembrance, which continues into July. I watched on television as the president of Rwanda and leaders from neighboring countries placed wreaths on the mass graves at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Later in the afternoon, once the dignitaries had gone home, I visited the memorial site.
In April 1994, just 22 years ago (does not seem that long ago, does it?), years of underlying tension broke loose in uncontrolled violence. Ancestral bloodlines—Hutu or Tutsi—were your “ID Card” to live or die. The Hutus turned on the Tutsis and through the use of machetes, guns, and other means, slaughtered almost 1 million people.
Statistics are just numbers and numbers usually do not have faces on them—smiles, laughter wrinkles, eyes of kindness, or glances of love to a spouse, child or friend. So it is easy to think, “Oh, that is terrible!!” and then move on without pausing. But pause we must.
For a week, the same young man served me in my hotel dining room. He always flashed me an ear-to-ear smile and greeting that told me he meant it when he said, “Good morning! Did you sleep well?” Or the genuine look of disappointment on his face when the chef was taking an extra long time to prepare my meal. He truly cared! He was a kind and considerate young man, who loved people and went beyond the “call of duty” in his work performance.
On Thursday morning as I sat in the hotel dining room, the young man stood beside me as we watched via television the placing of the wreaths at the memorial. I had already learned, in just a few days in the country, that the people of Rwanda no longer refer to their ancestral background when they speak of each other. No longer is there racial identity of Hutu or Tutsi printed on their ID Cards. Now “we are all Rwandans.”
It makes no difference—the color of your skin, the shape of your face or your ancestral roots—we are all one and the same. We belong to the same family. We are Rwandans.
I like that, don’t you? In my own country, the racial rhetoric at times leaves me troubled. It would be good if all could say, “We are all Americans. No matter the color of your skin, the shape of your face, your ancestral roots—we are all one and the same. We belong to the same family.”
This is exactly how God sees it. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And, if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29)
We are all part of Christ’s family. I like that, don’t you?