Today was a very eye-opening day. We started the day by going to Mbyo Reconciliation Village outside of Kigali. The village was set up as a way for perpetrators and victims of genocide to learn to trust each other again first by constructing the houses in their community together and then by living and working together as one community. As we arrived in the village one of the children who lived there chased after our bus trying to run next to it. When we got off the bus we were greeted by many people shaking our hands and saying "muraho" or "hello". We sat on benches under the trees in between two houses. The children of the village started by singing a song for us and performing a traditional dance. After the performance we listened to the testimony from three members of the village, two victims of genocide and one perpetrator of genocide. They each shared their story of how they came together, perpetrators and victims, first to share their stories and then to build their community. After the testimonies the children performed another dance and invited us to join them.
The dancing was beautiful but it wasn't just the dancing it was that the children from two different sides of genocide were able to come together and make something so joyful without any hint of tension. It was unbelievable. They made it seem as if forgiveness was an easy thing to accomplish. As someone who has had a hard time forgiving people for much smaller wrongs it is difficult for me imagine living and relying on someone who has hurt your family so much. The amount of forgiveness that went into that dance made it more beautiful than can be described.
The other eye-opening experience of the day was driving past a refugee camp fifteen minutes from the Rwanda-Burundi border. The camp was set up as a first stop for refugees fleeing political instability in Burundi. The refugees only spend a few days in the camp to be registered with Rwanda and the UN as refugee and be checked for diseases before being relocated to refugee camps further into Rwanda.
This was a UN-funded camp but still the tents were tattered and there didn't seem to be many supplies. Even though we looked only on the camp from our air-conditioned bus for a a few moments it still gave true impression as a difficult way to live. It was the first time I had seen anything like it. It was just indescribable.