Visiting the Murambi Genocide Memorial
Jan 6, 2010 | MURAMBI, RWANDA — The genocide memorial is set atop a magnificent hill – the most incredible landscape you can imagine. A panoramic view of rolling hills surrounds the memorial. It takes my breath away.
And yet, such tragedy has occurred in this place. A Rwandan friend of mine, points in the direction of another hill, telling me that the perpetrators of the genocide released prisoners there, and these prisoners assaulted the old school where this memorial now sits. Fifty thousand people were killed, where I now stand. Fifty thousand. Our group of visitors is numbered at about 100. Multiple our group by 500. Still, that number is hard to imagine.
Fifty thousand people were slaughtered by unimaginable brutality. The memorial is building after building of the remains of some of the victims, preserved in time. Their facial expressions and final positions before being killed are displayed for the world to see. Horror struck faces, knees bent in prayer, hands folded in pleas, children lay quiet, babies lay in their mother’s arms.
I can’t bear to enter each building. The sight of these terrors and the smell of these chemicals that freeze time, burn my eyes and nostrils. I find myself wanting to express emotion; wanting to cry, or scream, or just turn away in horror. Instead I walk from building to building, silent with everyone else in my group. Maybe there is no emotion that can truly capture how I feel. Silence has a way of filling in that unknown territory. Or maybe it is just a defense mechanism that protects me from truly accepting what I am experiencing.
Suddenly this genocide that I have read so much about – the one million people who were killed in one hundred days – becomes real to me. How could this have happened? How could the world have allowed it to happen?
I’m terrified by what this memorial shows – the dark side of humanity. We are all capable of these acts and that is what scares me the most. Never again. Never again, we say. But it does happen again, and again, and again. What will it take to end these acts before they start? What are the root causes? How can we stop these memorials from being erected?