JWW in Congo: A Cause for Hope?

by Diana Buckhantz

As we drive through plush verdant fields and towering mountains on our way to Kigali and the Congo border, we pass men, women and children walking and riding bicycles.  The scenery is spectacular. Children wave with bright smiles.  The women carry baskets and packages on their heads.  Life seems easy, slow, peaceful.

This scene is in sharp contrast to the images we saw at the Rwandan genocide museum yesterday.  There we read about and saw pictures of such atrocities—the decimation of millions, mass killing of children, brutalization of women—such hatred, such loss.

The museum also profiles some of the other genocides of the 20th century: Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, and Bosnia.  What is startling to me is that in every case there were warnings that a destruction of a people had started and in every case the world did not come forward until it was too late.

But there was also hope in the museum.  The goal of the museum is “never again.  It hopes to educate so that these genocides will never again be permitted.

Rwanda is a country that is transforming itself, economically and politically.  It has had a stable government for many years and is trying to reinvent its tourism industry.  But most importantly, it is transforming itself on a spiritual and emotional level.  Rwandans are clearly engaged in a process of reconciliation and healing.  For example, there is a program whereby perpetrators are brought to justice.  In this case justice means being required to apologize to the families of their victims who are then empowered to forgive.  The hope is that with forgiveness comes change for future generations.

I was struck by the lack of bitterness in the people we met and their sense of optimism for and hope in the future.  As we approach Congo, my apprehension rises.  My guess is that our visit in Congo will not engender such good feelings. Perhaps, however, we will be able to carry the hope we found here in Rwanda to our experiences in the Congo.  We shall see…