On this day 20 years ago, only the 3rd day of the conflict, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were already dead in a slaughter the world has come to know as the Rwandan Genocide. Within a mere 100 days, 800,000 people were killed.
Lauren Wolfe writes (linked above):
…what Rwandans endured is so extraordinarily horrifying—in terms of how many people experienced or witnessed brutal acts, and the sheer scale and speed of the killing—that the more time I spent in the country and talking to Nishimwe and others, the more I wondered how such a place could possibly go on after what happened in those horrible 100 days from April to July. How did each person survive? How does a whole country thrust into a hideous nightmare of people hacked to death and raped and tortured survive? What is it like to live in a society in which nearly everyone over the age of 20 has memories of such inhumane deeds?
Timothy McGrath observes (linked below):
For those who lived through the genocide in Rwanda, the mass killings were an indescribable horror. For those who watched from afar, it was an international shame.
The world stood idle as an estimated 800,000 men, women, and children were slaughtered in the course of 100 days in 1994. After, hanging its collective head, the world promised that “never again” would it allow such a horrifying conflict to unfold.
But even while making that promise, the world watched as people in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo killed and displaced each other by the millions. Conflicts in Darfur and Syria would also later test the world’s “never again” resolve. The US invasion of Iraq and Mexico’s drug war created new armed conflicts that also failed to live up to the lofty promise.
“Never again,” it seems, was an empty promise. The world of international actors capable of preventing or intervening in such conflicts has over and over again avoided doing so, even when there was the political and public will to do so.
Brutality is not a new concept in war. Since ancient times, whole people groups have undergone extreme deprivation, torture, rape, and mass murder in the face of conflict. Only within recent history, the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust of WWII and the rape of Nanking, the Guatemalan genocide, and numerous conflicts in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East just begin to capture the scope of horror faced by humankind during war. Entire generations of children have been left violating and homeless in the wake of violent disputes.
For those who have grown up in nations that have not seen such depravity within the past 100 years, apart from television news reports and front page headlines, it is easy to allow abuse during conflict to fade into someone else’s problem. But for those who have survived the atrocities like those which took place in Rwanda during the spring and early summer of 1994, abuse during conflict is far from a faint memory.
It is everyone’s responsibility to work together so that future generations do not suffer as present generations have. There has always been and always will be conflict. War can take any country at any time; no society or people group is immune to the threat of violence. The challenge is to raise up a generation that understands how to help each other – and respect each other – during times of conflict. As McGrath noted, the phrase “never again” is only as strong as the actions behind it.
Countless organizations work tirelessly to provide aid for men, women, and children who have been brutalized and displaced during conflict – or are at high risk of exploitation and violence: Compassion International, UNICEF, World Vision, and World Help are just a few.