Tonight, I learned about the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. I did not learn about it from the media or from an advocate for the UN or some other organization. No, I learned about it from a survivor of the genocide, Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo, who experienced the horrific 100 days firsthand.
I learned that the roots of the genocide went as far back as the 1930s, when Belgium took control of the country. I learned that it was they who first drove the wedge between the Tutsi and Hutu peoples, who before this had co-existed peacefully for centuries. I learned that the genocide was openly encouraged and even planned and directed by the government. I learned that the United Nations knew full well what was happening but did nothing to stop it.
I learned what evil truly is. I learned that evil is 1,000,000 innocent men, women, and children murdered – butchered – in 100 days. I learned that evil is a government who plans to systematically execute an entire tribe of people simply because they exist. I learned that evil is the rounding up of people into groups numbering in the thousands so that they could be slaughtered with grenades and machine guns and then finished off with machetes. I learned that evil is the using of rape as a condoned, encouraged tool in warfare.
I learned that Edmund Burke was right. He once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The United Nations knew full well what was happening in Rwanda. They were fully briefed on the situation. They had the manpower, they had the means, they had the support, they had the firepower to stop the killing, and yet the leaders chose to place their own self-serving political agendas first and pretended nothing was happening. How can people like that then dare to call themselves good?
I also learned that God does still work miracles. I learned that Bishop Alexis faced death on an almost daily basis, and God intervened every time. I learned that even the heads of the Rwandan government tried to have him killed, and yet God spared him. And I learned that God was with him: every time the situation was desperate and he became hopeless, God literally spoke to him and renewed his hope.
I learned that forgiveness is truly possible. I learned that over the last 15 years, reconciliation has been the top priority in Rwanda. I learned that Hutus and Tutsis are working together, side by side, to help the country heal. I learned that a man can truly forgive the people who butchered his mother, father, sisters, brothers, and friends. I learned that he could forgive them of the debts they owed to him and to reconcile himself with them.
I learned that in spite of all of the tragedy, there is still good in the word.