I was in Rwanda several years back. If you knew me then, you know that I was somewhat obsessed with that country and its history and its beautiful people. While I was there I wrote a lot and posted all of those writings on a blog. It is timokeefe.blogspot.com.
While we know hunger in this country, Rwanda really knows hunger. While we have racial issues in this country – to this day, Rwanda was nearly destroyed by ethnic violence. Over one million people were killed there in a hundred days. It was 20 years ago.
Most of us don’t know a lot about the Rwandan genocide. Our government told lies about it and did not act when they should have. The O. J. Simpson trial of the century bought off our attention for the news. And, after all, Rwanda is in Africa. Put simply, if it doesn’t affect us directly, most Americans don’t care about Africa.
What struck me most about my trip there and all of my readings and my acquaintance with the beautiful Rwandan people, especially Immaculee Illibagiza (author of Left To Tell) and our photographer/driver/translator/friend Richard, was their resilience.
Today, while Rwanda still has its problems, it is one of the most peaceful, safest, most beautiful countries in all of Africa. Incredible as it seems, the people have moved dramatically toward forgiving each other for the violence and murder of just two decades ago. It is nothing less than miraculous.
When I think of my time there, I think of verdant green hills and mountains, and the genocide memorial in Kigali, the mountain gorillas we hung out with in Virunga Park, and the little church in Ntarama where so many people were killed in one single event during the genocide. The scars of the survivors, the smiles on the children, the sunrises so beautiful they made me cry, and the stories of survival, the hard relentless work, the mass I heard in English – the priest’s very first, and our visit to Mother Teresa’s Orphanage where they never turn anyone away.
There is no particular reason I came back to Rwanda for this blog. Maybe I need to just because those memories are slipping away. And I never want to forget those people, that precious time.
I'll include some photos from my trip, and a blog post I wrote back in September of that year, the words taken directly from my notebook that I obsessively recorded in while I was there. I will come back to Rwanda from time to time. I don't want to forget.