Human Rights, Rwanda 2012

A group of 20 SMU students, faculty and staff are in Rwanda in August 2012 with SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program. After the African country’s 1994 civil war, in which as many as a million people were killed in 100 days, “history lives on,” says group leader and program director Rick Halperin. The SMU group are helping in the healing process by sharing donated books and classroom and medical supplies with schools and orphanages. They also are visiting genocide sites and meeting with survivors.

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Where gardens still grow

An update from Sarah, a graduate student in the Master of Liberal Studies program:

We paid our respects to the victims at Murambi Memorial Center today. I knew what I would see there but did not realize its geographic context. Promise once existed on this hilltop place. A technical secondary school was under construction, when on April 6, 1994, Rwanda was thrown into great turmoil followed by three months of genocide of the Tutsi Rwandans.

The hill is surrounded by higher hills. Terracing marks the landscape all around. Small homes dot the hillsides. Children are singing while they play. No airplanes can be heard, although there is a wind.

Murambi was said to be a place of refuge or safe haven. Local government and religious leaders sent word that the Tutsi would be protected there by the French soldiers. It was a lie. We now know that the French disappeared, the militia surrounded the hilltop, and shooting commensed. Estimates of 40,000+ people were murdered on April 21, 1994.  This is a number that I cannot visualize.

Around this time last year, I had just completed a trek to Machu Picchu. Like Murambi, it is on a mountaintop surrounded by higher mountains with terracing lining the landscape. Beautiful scenery is all around.

As I walked around Murambi – which displays the corpses of victims, to prove the genocide beyond doubt – I mentally escaped and observed the view. The similarities were striking. Gardens of life grow where humankind has carefully cultivated God’s Earth.

Machu Picchu is a place today where a civilization once lived before abandoning its home.

Murambi is a place where one ethnic group tried to exterminate another ethnic group.

… but life surrounds both sites.

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