Hell in Nyamata and Ntarama

Imanuelli took me for a drive today, and we ended up about 30 km south of Kigali.  Hell on earth would be a quite appropriate way in which to describe what I learned of today.  Google NyamataGoogle Ntarama. Be prepared.  I still feel fairly sad and tired after our visits.  We went to Ntarama first.  This little country church was about 5 km off the main road.  As we left the mian road, we stopped to ask directions and an older fellow told us how to get to the memorial.  He asked for a lift and I was the one that had to grant the request.  Of course, I agreed and he got out when we arrived at the site. It was raining as we arrived.  A young women came out of the Ntarama Sector Government office across the road.  She was there to guide us.  I was stunned. If you want to see my pictures, go here.  Think on it, a million people murdered in about 100 days in Rwanda in 1994.  And at Ntarma, about 5,000 folks, mostly women and children took refuge in the local Catholic church.  They were all killed by soldiers, militia men and local folk.  This scene was repeated all over the country, in churches and other public places, where Tutsi people were encouraged to go for protection.  Leading up to the genocide, all Rwandan citizens were required to carry identity cards, indicating their ethnic group. At that time, Hutu made up about 87 percent of the population, Tutsi about 12 percent,  and Twa, the final 1 percent. Rwandans whose cards indicated Tutsi were killed at road blocks around the country during the genocide.  Think about having your ethnicity identified on your driver’s license…

I lingered as long as I could at this sad place.  When We got back in the car, Imanueli asked me if we could wait, to pray.  I said of course.  He began to pray aloud in Kinyarwandan, and my only recongition of his words was “Jesus”.  He was visibly touched, saddened.  I then prayed aloud and at the conclusion of our prayers, I felt a common bond with this man, who has three orphans living in his home as part of his family.  These were street kids, with no family or home after the genocide.

We continued on to Nyamata.  The town was much more built up.  We found the memorial by asking directions of a pedestrian.  This memorial is also a former Catholic church.  A similar story is told here, though 10,000 took refuge in this church comp0und, all killed, mostly by being hacked to death with machetes.

Skulls and bones are on display, as were identity cards and personal effects.  All the benches in the church building were piked with clothing, blood stained, torn and faded.  I was so sad walking around here.  I was greeted by a woman who spoke a little English and she showed us around.  In both places, I was asked to sign a guest book and to make a donation.

We drove back in silence, though at several points, Imanuelli tried to share some of the region’s history with me in very poor English.  He also gave me a Kinyarwandan lesson.  A pretty river valley seperated the Kigali area from the Eastern Province that we entered.  Bugusere District is where the two sites are located.  Satan had been at work, Imanuelli told me.  Now Jesus was at work.  He told me, “You love Rwanda, you pray for Rwanda”.  I said yes I did and yes I would.

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