In Vienna, in the summer of 2002, a Rwandan theologian had a meeting with the Austrian Catholic press. He was asked some challenging questions, including: “What image would you choose to represent the current situation in Rwanda?” Without hesitation, he answered, “A cemetery and a construction site.” He was well aware of how things were in that country, but he could not describe it as he would have liked.
In fact, perhaps there was no more effective image than a cemetery to describe Rwanda. It is a cemetery because every hillside has been bathed in the blood of innocent people, whose remains were perhaps hastily buried on the spot. But it is also a construction site, as we are trying to rebuild the country to fill in the chasms of despondency and despair that mar its landscape.
Twenty-nine years after the genocide against the Tutsis, orchestrated by the top leadership of institutions, many still wonder how this monstrous crime, which caused about a million deaths in the space of just 100 days, could have happened. In remembering Rwanda’s horrific past, we must ask ourselves this question: How is it possible that so many people were killed while the rest of the world stood by and remained silent?