Commemoration of the Rwandan genocide: teaching through remembering

A reflection on the impact of the Rwandan Genocide

Assumpta Gasana, Contributing Writer

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April 7 will mark the 24th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. It seems like the pain is still the same. We still cry for the loved ones we lost in the genocide against the Tutsi people. We cry for the deaths you didn’t deserve, for the cost of silence when things were falling apart, for the empty space you left in our hearts, for the presence of you, “family,” that was taken away from us who were born after the Genocide. I don’t know what you looked like, dear aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, but when April knocks on my door, I imagine all the beautiful memories with you that I missed.

Remembering is not a way to reverse hatred, and it is not a way for us to get stuck in the past, in grief. Instead, it is a way to honor innocent humans who were killed for how they were born. It is a way of telling our children the atrocity that happened. It is a way for us to connect to lives we missed: siblings, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and dearest parents. Some of us didn’t live to see you, some of us were too young to hold on to a single memory we had built, some of us wish to have you back in our arms to say a more dignified goodbye, and some of us will forever hold on to the memories we had, and rise on them.

I believe that the very best way of preventing genocide is not teaching youth that killing was the only problem in genocides, but also teaching them the impact of a very small hatred that grew for years into the Rwandan Genocide. It is very important to teach through remembering, through telling the truth, because that is what moves people ahead. The truth is that I am mad that I couldn’t see my family; I am mad that Rwandans lost more than a million people from its population. But I am mad enough to strive for a better future, a better world for my children, and yours. This can’t be done by hiding the truth instead telling the story from the very beginning, teaching children that everything big comes from the small things.

It started as a small hatred but ended in a massacre between brothers, neighbors, and family. The most successful way to fight something is to attack its roots. Let’s focus on what unites us to overcome the little hatred that grows in us. We should be accountable for the hate we feed even in the comfort of our homes. Rwanda gives the world a story to learn from. A story that teaches youth about the consequences of ignorance and bad leadership, a story with a promise to rise against our shadow, the story that gives hope.

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