- Posted April 3, 2014 by
Bangui, Central African Republic
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
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Twenty years after the genocide, an American aid worker reflects on her time in Rwanda
- zdan, CNN iReport producer
Leann Hager, Catholic Relief Services' country representative in Rwanda until recently, speaks with Bishop Smaragde of Kabgayi. CRS and the Catholic Church in Rwanda have been working closely together to reconcile communities after the genocide.
At the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda’s capital, historians have started to record the names of those lost in the 100 days of unthinkable violence in 1994 that killed nearly one million people.
Through immense personal strength and faith, and supported by the Catholic Church and Catholic Relief Services, many survivors and perpetrators of the genocide have found a way to live together in peace.
During the genocide, Fidele Mparikubwimana killed ten members of Esperance Mugemana’s family and spent 10 years in prison. After Fidele asked her forgiveness and after they participated in CRS’ peace and reconciliation program, Esperance found it within herself to forgive him. They now live as neighbors.
While many perpetrators and survivors have found peace through forgiveness, speaking to their children about what happened and their own roles is still very difficult for most people.
The Murambi Genocide Memorial, high in the hills of southern Rwanda, is one of the most graphic displays of the brutality of the genocide. Here, people pay tribute to those lost after seeking refuge at this school under construction, their bodies preserved and ‘frozen’ in the instant they died.
A preserved mass grave at Murambi Genocide Memorial serves as a stark reminder of the mass atrocities committed here.
Many women lost their husbands and children in the genocide. Today, there are about 50,000 genocide widows in Rwanda who live in communities established specifically for them so they can support each other.
Rwanda is often called the Land of a Thousands Hills with its countryside dotted with what appears to be literally a thousand hills that are a mixture of mountains, volcanoes and hillocks.
By LeAnn Hager
LeAnn works for US-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States.
She was CRS’ Country Representative in Rwanda between 2012 and 2014. She now heads up the CRS team in Central African Republic, where inter-community killings that are threatening to tear the country apart remind some of what happened in Rwanda 20 years ago.
When I first arrived in Rwanda’s capital Kigali I deliberately did not visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial for several months. I wasn’t sure what to expect - but I did know I did not want that experience to influence how I approached my colleagues and the country as a whole. I remember 1994 well - I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa and the genocide, right on the heels of Nelson Mandela’s election in South Africa, was big news across the continent.