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Rwanda Bearing Witness Retreat 2011: Day #2

This will be short posting.  It’s already 12:20 am and we have an early departure in the morning.

We spent the morning at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center, the principal genocide museum in Rwanda, which is also the site of mass graves where the remains of over 280,000 genocide victims are interred. The museum is a deep plunge. The museum was funded and designed by the Aegis Trust and a British designer that also designed one of the major holocaust museums. So the exhibits are very well done and extremely powerful. I felt crushed there, even though this was my fourth time going through the museum. I walked out just overwhelmed and brokenhearted. In the afternoon we listened to the testimony of an amazing man who lost his wife, children and 75 family members in the genocide. He escaped into Burundi and joined the military hoping to one day bring vengeance on his family’s killers. Some how he went through a major healing and found a way to forgive the killers. He now works together with the actual men who killed his wife and other family members in an association he started for survivors and convicted perpetrators working together for unity and reconciliation in Rwanda.

This evening we were at Nyanza, the location of the IBUKA offices, where we did the 3-day trauma counselor training last week. They had erected about six huge white circus tents forming a vast U shape around a large field and bonfire. There were probably six or seven thousand people there.  We listened to a lot of speeches in kinyarwanda without translation. So that was kind of challenging for our international participants, although our Rwandan friends did a little whispered translation for the people sitting next to them. There was beautiful music too, and it was just very special sharing this event and time with the Rwanda people. At the beginning, we were asked to stand as honored guests. Several speakers also thanks us for our support for the commemoration and the peace process in Rwanda. I was invited to join a group of dignitaries in laying large flower wreaths at the mass graves at Nyanza. I stood next to an army major general who I had a brief conversation with as we processed down to the mass graves site. The event was on national TV, so we were in the spotlight again.

Tomorrow we drive 3 hours to Murambi, which is one of the most intense and disturbing places we will visit.  Our small peace circle (council or listening circles) groups have been really powerful and the retreat is going really well so far with very active participation from our 18 international participants and 35 Rwandan participants.

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