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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Walk of Hope

Today we walked alongside the Rwandan people in solidarity as they celebrated hope and life twenty years after the genocide. Our starting point was the presidential palace where the then president was killed as his plane came in to land in the field behind his house. The plane was shot down and was the signal for the planned genocide to begin. Hit lists had been prepared in advance. The killings began immediately all across Rwanda.

Our walk covers eight kilometres of hilly terrain. It is hot, the Rwandan sun beating down mercilessly. No rain today. As we set out, voices begin singing. More people join in and I am carried along on the sweet rhythm filling the air. We stopped traffic as the progression swelled, police slowed traffic to a standstill. We marched on in the hundreds, kilometre after kilometre towards the stadium. Other groups also walked from significant points around the city where the genocide atrocities began. As we near the stadium each of the progressions merge, shouting and excitement stirring the crowd.

The walk is a sign of comittment to move forward. Progress has been slow in Rwanda over the last twenty years, but momentum is quickly growing, with the last few years showing significant progress in the infrastructure and rebuilding of the country. Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economic systems today. 

A survivor of the genocide is welcomed to the stage to share his story. Edward Kuraranda was born in the Western province. His seven children were killed by his father and brother in laws during the Tutsi genocide. They were all dumped into the river. Somehow he evaded the killers. His wife from a Hutu background was taken by her family and forced to leave her Tutsi husband. He was left with nothing. He tells us that after the genocide and despair he found hope in God. God kept him alive, God was his refuge through the tragedy. Everything is possible with God he tells us. He stands before us today to bear witness that it is possible to move through the darkness. After the genocide his wife was restored to him, she then joined him on stage. The crowd erupts with clapping as his two sons born after the genocide also stand on the stage. Edwards story is full of forgiveness, like many of the people here. I have never seen such widespread tragedy touch so many. Everywhere we turn there is another with a similar story - suffering, restoration and forgiveness. 

Mark Zschech, along with his wife Darlene began Hope Rwanda, now Hope Global ten years ago in 2004. Ten years after the genocide they began a journey of restoration with the people. And now ten years on he reminds the people that the message hasn't changed. He tells us to always choose hope, to walk the road of hope because we are ambassadors of hope. The stadium roars in response.
I  look out at the stadium full of people, there is a common thread weaving all of their stories together. Hope is weaving a beautiful tapestry here in Rwanda, it is colourful, vibrant and full of promise.

Kwibuka' - remember, unite, renew. 

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