I felt the ground crumbling from beneath me and so I clung to silence. Still, the sound of death was there. I tried to drown out the haunting screams echoing in my brain with my breath—but the rising and falling of my chest exhausted my efforts. In remembering those suffocated by inhumanity, I felt guilty for breathing in the sweet scent of life. Here, memories of death are inescapable in a country that holds so much beauty.

We stayed in silence together as we drove home—attempting to escape the bloody reminders of death. Home is at the Pallottine mission guesthouse built on the same campus that the Gikondo Massacre took place 20 years ago. On April 10, 1994, three days after the genocide began, the interahamwe savagely murdered 110 Tutsis in a large parish on this campus. As if simply killing wasn’t enough, the militia slowly tortured and mutilated the bodies of all Tutsis present at the church. Somehow, 11 children survived the slaughter and were hidden in another chapel by the parish nuns—I could see this chapel from the balcony of my guest room. But three days later, the interahamwe returned to Gikondo to set the chapel on fire. There were no survivors. This is the place we call “home.” The UNAMIR considered this massacre at Gikondo the first evidence of “genocide,” referring to violent crimes intending to wipe out the existence of a people group. In response to these evident systematic killings, the commander of the UN Peacekeepers pleaded with his superiors to allow him to intervene before more died. He said that he only needed 2,500 troops to end the slaughter within weeks to defend the Tutsis. His plan of attack against the interahamwe would stop their violent rampage. Shockingly, the UN denied his request and instead, required 90% of peacekeeping forces to withdraw from Rwanda. A month later in May, the UN Security Council finally voted to send 5,500 peacekeeping troops to Rwanda however, the United States stalled their deployment. Delighted by the world’s lack of response, the interahamwe continued to reign and the bloodbath escalated. One hundred days passed and still, the world did not say a word.

Joshua broke the silence,

“I want to take you to the little village that was my first home in Rwanda. After remembering the bloodshed that I witnessed, I need to go for me—I find so much hope there.”


When we arrived in the little village, Joshua came alive. He saw an elderly man and jumped out of the car to greet him—noticing the scars on his face and on his body as reminders of the history he endured. Alphonse was his name. He was a dear neighbor of Joshua’s when he lived here. Life in the village was so different back then—forced to draw a divide across ethnic lines as if they had nothing in common to share. They were supposed to be at war with each other—conditioned to disembody, mandated to kill and authorized to hate. But they didn’t. Refusing to deny their common humanity, they raised the banner of peace. Now, they are able to share freely in recognizing their brotherhood. Reunited after 20 years, I can only imagine that there was much for Joshua and Alphonse to catch up on. In reminiscing, I think Joshua became a young boy again.


The echoing screams in my brain were drowned out by the sound of children laughing—I found that I was able to breathe again. Joshua’s efforts to preserve the memory of the genocide is not to seek revenge, but to highlight the symbols of ever present hope in his country. Alphonse alive and well is a result of Joshua’s courage to defend his neighbor, regardless of ethnic identity. As Joshua interacted and reminisced in this place, once a war zone, he was at home.

To be at home in the discomforting memory of death and destruction, silence and agony, offers a light into the dark memories we would rather forget. In remembering the places from which we came, home is where we find rest from the screaming voices and tormenting thoughts that haunt us. On pilgrimage, Joshua returns—revisiting these dark places in his history to find redemption, to highlight the symbols of hope, to celebrate the next generation who represent a peace-filled Rwanda. He goes back into the darkness to slay the strongholds of hatred, disdain and despair, embracing the opportunity to live freely in peace. Then, he can come home once again. And we can come home to Rwanda as a metaphor of the dark and light corners of our own hearts. As disconnected as I am from Rwanda’s genocide that happened 20 years ago, I’m seeing that entering into these spaces of immense pain with Joshua is a reflection of myself—inviting me to learn from the failures of the world’s lack of intervention, to identify with both the oppressed and the oppressor and to mirror the heroic courage that arises from unexplainable agony.

Rwanda-038-0027-web Rwanda-033-0015-web Rwanda-037-0026-web

As Joshua revisits these places, the memories persistently haunt his mind—memories of the tremendous loss his family experienced, the atrocities his friends committed and the psychological hold that this juxtaposition has on him. His intentionality in revisiting these memories shows immense courage and strength. Joshua later told me that this was the same village where his mother was killed before his eyes—the village where he himself was supposed to die. He returns to this place to remember the life he is privileged to live.

Remembering those whose bodies have been dismembered honors the memory of lives lost and ushers in a 
painstaking and profound process of embodying newly restored life. 

Joshua stayed for a while longer—laughing with the village members and admiring their newly built water well. After drawing water, two sisters played hide-and-seek behind a jerry can. Upon leaving, the elder sister, not more than 7 years, stuck a passion fruit into the mouth of the can to keep its precious contents from spilling. She struggled several times to lift the heavy jerry can onto her head and finally, after regaining her balance, walked home—her baby sister trotting after her.


118 thoughts on “Part III

  1. Pingback: Leroy
  2. Pingback: Bradley
  3. Pingback: dave
  4. Pingback: Derek
  5. Pingback: willard
  6. Pingback: Gene
  7. Pingback: kirk
  8. Pingback: trevor
  9. Pingback: Gabriel
  10. Pingback: Mathew
  11. Pingback: nelson
  12. Pingback: Austin
  13. Pingback: eddie
  14. Pingback: nathan
  15. Pingback: oscar
  16. Pingback: travis
  17. Pingback: paul
  18. Pingback: lynn
  19. Pingback: Marshall
  20. Pingback: Clarence
  21. Pingback: Steve
  22. Pingback: gabriel
  23. Pingback: todd
  24. Pingback: alfred
  25. Pingback: Michael
  26. Pingback: Gilbert
  27. Pingback: Lonnie
  28. Pingback: Kirk
  29. Pingback: william
  30. Pingback: bryan
  31. Pingback: Jay
  32. Pingback: rafael
  33. Pingback: Ron
  34. Pingback: alexander
  35. Pingback: sergio
  36. Pingback: jay
  37. Pingback: Stanley
  38. Pingback: Marc
  39. Pingback: Miguel
  40. Pingback: Cody
  41. Pingback: nathaniel
  42. Pingback: Arturo
  43. Pingback: christopher
  44. Pingback: dean
  45. Pingback: cody
  46. Pingback: wayne
  47. Pingback: lynn
  48. Pingback: Ernesto
  49. Pingback: ricardo
  50. Pingback: Sean
  51. Pingback: Gerald
  52. Pingback: chester
  53. Pingback: oliver
  54. Pingback: ian
  55. Pingback: lee
  56. Pingback: Seth
  57. Pingback: dave
  58. Pingback: lester
  59. Pingback: Tracy
  60. Pingback: chad
  61. Pingback: Larry
  62. Pingback: Arthur
  63. Pingback: glen
  64. Pingback: Louis
  65. Pingback: Milton
  66. Pingback: Andrew
  67. Pingback: ted
  68. Pingback: Jeremiah
  69. Pingback: Daryl
  70. Pingback: Joshua
  71. Pingback: kyle
  72. Pingback: clyde
  73. Pingback: julio
  74. Pingback: arturo
  75. Pingback: Rafael
  76. Pingback: Danny
  77. Pingback: Carlos
  78. Pingback: jaime
  79. Pingback: dean
  80. Pingback: ivan
  81. Pingback: Stephen
  82. Pingback: Raymond
  83. Pingback: Ted
  84. Pingback: Vernon
  85. Pingback: julian
  86. Pingback: Ben
  87. Pingback: brad
  88. Pingback: ron
  89. Pingback: Robert
  90. Pingback: Kirk
  91. Pingback: vincent
  92. Pingback: roger
  93. Pingback: shane
  94. Pingback: Clifford
  95. Pingback: Julian
  96. Pingback: Dwayne
  97. Pingback: Roy
  98. Pingback: roland
  99. Pingback: robert
  100. Pingback: gene
  101. Pingback: Jack
  102. Pingback: Billy
  103. Pingback: jacob
  104. Pingback: Mitchell
  105. Pingback: armando
  106. Pingback: james
  107. Pingback: floyd
  108. Pingback: Tommy
  109. Pingback: allen
  110. Pingback: marvin
  111. Pingback: ray
  112. Pingback: luis
  113. Pingback: julian
  114. Pingback: ben
  115. Pingback: Dean
  116. Pingback: Francisco
  117. Pingback: Wayne
  118. Pingback: mark

Comments are closed.