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Rwanda Bearing Witness Retreat 2011: Day #1

Our 2nd Peacemaker Institute Rwanda Bearing Witness Retreat began this afternoon with orientation, introductions, and a really powerful film called Longcoat, written and directed by an amazing young Rwandan filmmaker/actor/poet. We have 16 international participants and 32 – 35 Rwandan participants, leaders and senior staff with the key Rwandan NGO’s and government agencies working for healing, reconciliation and genocide prevention. Tomorrow morning we will have our first small peace (council) circles and then head to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center, and amazing genocide museum and the site of mass graves where more than 250,000 genocide victims are interred. In the afternoon, we will return to our headquarters at the EPR Guest House and hear testimony from a number of genocide survivors. Tomorrow evening we will make the trek up to Nyanza hill for a major Commemoration Week event, memorializing the over 5,000 Tutsis who were massacred there after being abandoned at the Technical College by their U.N. protectors. The Interahamwe militia moved in when the U.N. moved out and then marched the people 6 kilometers up a steep road to the top of Nyanza hill where they were murdered with grenades, machetes and guns. There will be thousands of mourners present for this nationally televised event. And some will stay the whole night in vigil.

Yesterday afternoon we held a press conference for the Rwandan print, radio and television media. We ended up being the lead story on the Rwandan national television station evening news. So people definitely know about the retreat. I’m personally very relieved that the retreat is underway after working so hard on it for the past year. May the work benefit many and prevent future genocides lead to peace here in Rwanda and throughout the world.

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