Day 2: Genocide Memorial

We began our Monday with breakfast at 7am. Around 8am, we piled into the van and started on our way through the already busy streets to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, taking pictures and videos of the scenes from the town on the way.

The Kwibuka Flame outside of the Kigali Genocide Memorial
symbolizes remembrance as well as the resilience and courage of Rwandans
over the past 23 years.

​The memorial began with a short video about survivors of the Genocide, giving us a small perspective on what the memorial would cover. The memorial began with information on how Rwanda was before the Genocide. I found this information intriguing, and important to understanding the history and beginnings of the Genocide. I learned a lot about the roles of other countries, religious influences and ethnic tensions through this section. As we moved through the exhibits, the images and content became more graphic and heavy, holding back no details or niceties about the mass murders. It included graphic pictures and videos of the reality of the killings in Rwanda at that time. The building was silent as we took in all we could from what was presented to us.

We moved into a room dedicated to the children of the Genocide. It displayed pictures of children who had perished that had been donated by their families. This room was incredibly moving for all members of the group, as it created even more personal connections to those young individuals, and gave faces to the names of the victims. It showed us the effect of the genocide on truly innocent people. Although there were few words written in this exhibit, the images portrayed a powerful story. It was followed by a room full of more personal photographs of victims, young and old, giving full respect and recognition to the victims.

At the end of the memorial, we watched another short film by the survivors. This film, like most of the museum, focused on forgiveness and moving on from this tragedy. These survivors recognized that the Genocide is still a part of their everyday life but they will not be held back by it.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the final
resting place for over 250,000 Genocide victims,
buried in mass graves below the concrete surface.

​Once we left the building of the memorial, we were able to walk around and view the mass graves. This piece of the memorial provided a sense of reality and gave the land a sacred feeling. The graves were covered by arrangements of flowers, providing beauty and peace to the graves that covered over 250,000 dead bodies. We were able to see down into one of the graves, which showed us the coffins of many perished individuals. This experience tied together the entirety of the memorial.

All in all, it was a very emotionally stimulating morning for myself and my classmates. After the memorial visit, we were able to further discuss the background of the genocide and it’s impacts. We can use this knowledge to better understand the culture and observe how much this country is truly moving forward. We have learned that Rwanda will not be broken down from this trauma. Leaving this memorial left us with feelings of hope and respect for Rwanda’s amazing progress. It showed us that Rwanda is a unified nation dedicated to overcoming adversity. Although it was a lot to take in, I am very thankful we had this opportunity.

-Kelly Henry

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