Rwanda: the land of a thousand hills and a million smiles

The terra rosa of Africa has a pulse that is difficult to explain to those who have never been there. This pulse is strong and surges into all those who step foot on this land. The colours, music, children, hands reaching to the heavens, smiles and landscapes are like the blood that feed this pulse. This pulse does not stop here; Africans have the ability to endure the hardships that lie before them every day. This strength of perserverance adds to the pulse along with a great trust in God. In the country of Rwanda this pulse is as strong as if you could feel your heart pounding through your chest. The strength of this country and its ability to rebuild and transform after their entire country literrally was dead is unbelievable. One would not believe that this country experienced a genocide where 1 million people died. The visible signs most evident are seeing many men with missing limbs such as legs and hands as well as burns and scars from machetes. There is a peace here which is evident in the way the people interact with one another. The people respect their President, his government and laws and have the desire to rebuild their country. With these attitudes in place a good foundation has already been layed. The words of a Rwandan Christian song really struck me as I listened in the home of an orphaned family. The chorus sang: “God protected you so you could look back at your life,” (in referance to the genocide). When speaking with the people here they will share their story of how they sruvived the genocide, and you can tell in their eyes and their voice that they know they must not let what happened happen again. The Rwandans I befriended all expressed the same thought which is, “we cannot forget the past! We must look to the future.” At the entrance of the Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali there is a statement about the genocide which sums up the attitude of the majority of Rwandans which reads:

“This is about our past and our future; our nightmares and dreams; our fear and our hope; which is why we begin where we end…with the country we love.”

There is much hope here in Rwanda which the young people here (who make up 70% of the population, those <18 years of age) call “a little paradise.” This country that was filled with hatred beyond one’s comprehension is now beginning to be filled with love. For this love to come forth there needs to be forgiveness first or else there will be no room for love to grow. And, as written at the Genocide Memorial in Kigali:

“There will be no humanity without forgiveness. There will be no forgiveness without justice. But justice will be impossible without humanity.”

It also comes down to seeing each human being as equal to oneself and accepting them. In the words of a survivor of the Genocide, “if you knew me and you really knew yourself you would not have killed me.” To see each other without clouded lenses but clearly each individual as our brother or sister is the goal which is being accomplished here in Rwanda little by little, year after year.  It was beautiful to see an entire village of only orphans and windows living together in community. A young Rwandan girl, 32 years old, whom I became good friends with invited me to her village which is as descrive above. She herself is an orphan and has adopted 6 orphans. In Rwanda it is the law that every Rwandan is obliged to adopt an orphan. There are 300, 000 orphans in Rwanda and 85,000 children are heads of their households. I spent much time with the orphans in this village and one can observe how much love they crave. When in the Democratic Republic of Congo there are many children in the street who are poor but in Rwanda the kids will not let go of your hand and you can see how much they crave attention and need to be loved by someone. The adults take care of all the children they can possibly look after and it is truly inspiring, but it is not the same as a true mother or father. There are many billboards in Kigali which read: “look after every child like it’s your own.” This is something that adds to the strong pulse I have felt here in Rwanda which is the love for each other and the sense of community. I was walking through the village I mentioned with the 2 orphaned daughters of my friend and the two girls went into a house to visit a family and the family, which consisted of a girl my age with her younger brother and cousins, welcomed me like I was a part of their family. Then it started to rain and around a dozen or more orphans on the street paraded into this house and made themselves comfortable and we all watched Rwandan hiphop music videos on their t.v. Rwandans are truly a welcoming people and a country of a “million smiles” (which is written on their Visa). I have been truly inspired by the hope these people carry which for me is impossible to comprehend how one could live after seeing such attrocities during the genocide. They have God, and this is reitterated by many Rwandans when you speak to them. They have the source, Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.

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4 thoughts on “Rwanda: the land of a thousand hills and a million smiles

  1. Oh Lydia, I wish I could be there with you. I love you so much my dear friend. You words are indeed His words. Please say ‘Hello’ to Rwanda for me and tell that beautiful place I really hope I get to experience it’s beauty and step foot on it’s terra rosa in my lifetime…. maybe even with you at my side.

    Love Laura.

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