Guest blog post by Mireille Ishimwe. A few weeks ago as I was visiting my family during spring break, I learned that according to a census done by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda in 2007, there were around 300,000 Tutsis survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. I could not believe that we were that few in numbers.
How did I not know that crucial part of my history? I was ashamed and felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility towards the people we lost, the survivors, my country, the world, and the future generations.
An obligation to live right and to do as much good as my limited powers will allow me.
My hope as you read these lines is that you are stirred enough to develop a thin skin for injustice. And, if strength is bestowed unto you may you stand up against wrongdoing wherever you see it, be it in your community, or family.
On April 7, 1994, “agahumamunwa” the unnamable befell on our hills. For the next three months, our fate was thrown down, like worthless branches, without a grave.
Some still struggle to talk about it, some choose to bury the bits of memories, if not for eternity, at least for some time. I call them pieces of us that left us.
I do not have a name for them. It is as if you become another person and you spend the rest of your life trying to build yourself-whole again.
Most of us, genocide survivors, live with constant soreness within. We experience endless triggers.
Watching a happy family, being happy for them, but gripping with the loss of your own. Wanting to get up every morning, but your limbs betray you, like a dear woman, I know who has been paralyzed for the past 25 years after she was beaten, abused in all kinds of ways and left for dead by genocide perpetrators.
The triggers can be as simple as going to the Doctor’s office, being asked about your family health history and not knowing the answer because most were killed, young and healthy. We do not control when they happen, sometimes they are bearable other times they are suffocating.
The list of our brokenness is long. I could go on and on… Nevertheless, so is the list of our strengths.
Look around you, pay attention to the survivors in your life.
Men and women who locked eye with the devil and never forgot his stare, yet decided to look up, drew strength from God and chose to walk right.
I say, God, because leading an ordinary life, smiling, getting married, moving to a new country or staying home, seeking justice for your loved ones everything the survivors did to re-build themselves up, the tenacity it took was “Divine.”
I praise all genocide survivors for inspiring the world to look up.
I end my plea asking us to love one another through our brokenness. The ones we lost would not want us, to be continually vexed and undone nor do they want us to be silent.
I believe they wish for us to embrace hope, to comfort weaker hearts than ours, to achieve our life’s purpose, and to always remember.
Ours is a long and onerous journey. Thus, I pray that this commemoration brings you renewed vitality, I pray that another shattered part of you heals and joins the rest of you in looking up and moving right.
I also encourage us to pick up our thread, weave our stories, and sew them carefully, lovingly.
Mireille Ishimwe is a genocide survivor currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Pharmacy at Manchester University. She was 2 years old in 1994 when the genocide broke out.