Today was our last full day in Rwanda. The remaining five piled into “Big Trusty” to visit two genocide memorial sites outside of Kigali.
The Catholic Church located in Nyamata was the scene of a horrific massacre where 10,000 Tutsis were killed. Inside the church, we saw the clothing of 10,000 victims piled among the pews. It was hard to imagine 10,000 people fitting into the small chapel let alone the tragedy that transpired. Below the chapel were two underground crypts where the remains of 41,000 people were laid to rest.
The second church memorial site that we visited was in Ntarama. Once again, clothing and remains were on display as visual reminders of the genocide. 5,000 Tutsis were killed in the three buildings that make up the Ntarama memorial.
Both memorials try to capture the tragic scale of what happened in 1994. I have never seen anything like it. My description of the two churches, do not do justice to the profound effect of the memorials. Even now, many hours later, it is hard to describe the flood of emotions and questions that I had walking among the belongings and remains of so many who died.
A couple of days ago, Leon said that, after a civilization has been destroyed, education is the only way to rebuild. The students that we met at KIE represent the strength and vision that the people of Rwanda have towards building their future. I am inspired by their dedication towards progress, and humbled by their courage.
Without a doubt, it will take some time for each of us to digest and make sense of the past two weeks in Kigali. The people of Rwanda have been gracious in welcoming us into their country, schools, homes, and lives. We have made discoveries, connections, and friends. The world seems smaller.
So, without attempting to make any conclusions, all I can say is thank you. Thank you Jean, Leon, Steven, KIE, and everyone else who has been open to us and to Applied Theatre. Thank you Rwanda!