Kwibuka (Kinyarwanda for ‘remember’) calls on the world to stand against genocide in three ways: remember, unite and renew.
I was honoured to stand with Rwandan friends and colleagues in commemoration of the genocide and in celebration of the amazing road to peace, reconciliation and progress in Rwanda. This service in St Marylebone Church, London on 7th April was shocking, sobering, emotional and uplifting.
Shocking to recall the horrific events that unfolded at breath-taking speed in Kigali 22 years ago while the world stood by and watched, sobering to hear young people reflecting on the loss of anything like a normal upbringing, gut-wrenching to listen to accounts of people’s lives turned into horror stories and…. Uplifting, hearing a 12 year old child talk about how she and her peers live on to honour the memories of those who died and to pursue with passion a future that they would have been proud of.
This is why we work so hard at APIE. Working with the young people in Rwanda to build strong positive futures for themselves, their families and the whole country. Working with teachers and parents to guide them on this journey. Beyond that, I am continually in awe of so many Rwandans I have met who carry their stories with grace and dignity. When I look around the world at all the conflict and disruption, it is remarkable and incredibly humbling to be working with people who are determined not to be crushed by their recent past.
The purpose of commemoration is to remember and to honour those who died, to ensure that history is told factually and honestly and then to discover what can be learned. I feel great hope when I witness the enormous efforts of those who still carry the scars to move forward with determination and live in peace together. Our two wonderful patrons are both shining examples of this.
Jean Paul Samputu sang a beautiful haunting song in the Commemoration Service, in hushed tones which still filled the church with its soulful refrain of remembrance. Jean Paul’s family were all killed in the genocide, by a neighbour and childhood friend. Here is the story of this man and how he and Jean Paul now work together to speak around the world about the power of forgiveness.
That evening I watched our other patron Roger Jean Nsengiyumva performing in Les Blancs at the National Theatre. Roger is 22. He was born in Kigali during the genocide. Due to the unbelievable courage of his mother, they survived and Roger has become one of the most extraordinary young men I have ever known. Les Blancs is set in a fictional African country on the verge of revolution. It explores the complexity of international relationships and the range of conflicts experienced by humans – from personal to global. At APIE we are committed to the goal of establishing healthy and respectful relationships both inter-personal and in our international partnerships – as Kwibuka say: to seek shared values and attempt to create a better world together.
Altogether 7th April was a powerful day of reflection. I am humbled to be a part of this journey of rebirth and proud to call so many Rwandans my friends.