By Acharya Fleet Shunryu Maull, Roshi.
Peacemaker Institute staff attended the opening ceremonies of the National Week of Commemoration and Mourning, honoring the victims and survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis. Four Peacemaker Institute staff were seated in the VIP section just five rows behind the President of Rwanda, at Amahoro (Peace) Stadium, the national stadium, which was packed, standing room only, with about 50,000 people. One staff member recalled, “We were sitting among high government officials, diplomats and visiting dignitaries. As volunteers with a small peacemaking NGO, we felt a bit out of place, but there we were. I sat next to the Deputy General of the National Bank of Rwanda. We had a great conversation about how to leverage our peace building efforts in Rwanda for the greatest positive impact.”
The ceremonies were powerful. There were songs and theatrical presentations by leading Rwandan artists and stirring speeches, including a very powerful speech by President Paul Kagame.
Throughout the ceremonies and the president’s speech, one could hear the crying and wailing of traumatized survivors, many breaking down during the ceremonies on this, April 7th, the 17th memorial day commemorating the start of the 100 days of genocidal horror.
Toward the end of his speech, the president encouraged everyone to take care of and support the many traumatized survivors who have a particularly difficult time during the mourning period and anniversary of the genocide where so many witnessed and experienced unspeakable horrors, including the brutal slaughter of their own family members.
The 2nd Rwanda Bearing Witness Retreat begins tomorrow afternoon with 18 international participants and 35 Rwandan participants, leaders and senior staff from more than twenty Rwandan NGO’s and government agencies involved in genocide prevention and reconciliation work. They have joined the bearing witness and peacebuilding coalition organized by the Peacemaker Institute and their principal Rwandan partner, Memos: Learning from History.
A press conference was held this afternoon for the Rwandan print, radio and television media. The press conference was the lead story on the evening news of the national Rwandan television channel.
“I’m looking forward to renewing friendships from last year and making new friends from our growing peacebuilding coalition tomorrow. I’m also quite aware that we are heading into a very deep plunge into the darkness, and the unspeakable horror of genocide. Please keep us all in your hearts and prayers. May this work bring healing to Rwanda, our global human family and the earth.”