Hope Rwanda: Remembering and Restoring the People of Rwanda.
By Nicolette Ferreira.
There was a time when the streets of Rwanda ran red with blood. This was a time that the Rwandans feel the world forgot them. It did not happen so long ago that we are allowed to let it slide into the dustier crevices of our memory. While South Africa was celebrating its first democracy, an atrocity fiercer than the Holocaust forever tainted the gentle slopes of Rwanda.
In the space of a mere 100 days, April to June 1994, an estimated number of 800 000 people (mostly Tutsis, but also including moderate Hutus) died at the hand of Hutu militias known as Interahamwe, encouraged by class divisions to “kill the Tutsis, [because] they’re cockroaches.” During this time, announcements over the radio ominously resounded through the land of a thousand hills: “We must all fight the Tutsis. We must finish with them, exterminate them, sweep them from the whole country. There must be no refuge for them. They must be exterminated. There is no other way.” At least 250 000 women were ruthlessly raped during the next three months.
Although today the rain runs clear in the streets of Rwanda, bleeding hearts and communities were left behind. Nightmares still echo through the land and pester those who witnessed the genocide. A survivor of the genocide, Beatrice, recalls: “I remember machetes flying around right and left as they cut people in every part of their bodies…I woke up many hours later to see that I was still alive. On top of me were the bodies of my seven children.” Running into the night, Beatrice was captured again, hacked on the neck and raped. She bore the child of her rapist.
In 2004, Mark and Darlene Zchech (from Hillsong Church, Sydney) founded a venture to breathe life back into a country filled with dead bones – Hope Rwanda. According to this project’s informative website, Hope Rwanda is a faith based, non-profit organisation that unites individuals, churches, governments, NGO’s, education, trade, healthcare and business professionals to restore hope and justice to the survivors of the genocide.
In 2006, the Zschechs launched the project “100 Days of Hope”. Over 100 days the project brought hope to the people of Rwanda in various areas: schools, homes and orphanages were built; medical aid was provided – including open heart surgeries; nutrition, hygiene and leadership development were placed under an inquisitive light; churches and humanitarian groups already working in Rwanda received much needed support; widows, orphans, prostitutes and prisoners were lovingly fostered. It was for this very same reason that God admonished his people: “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow…[T]here should be no poor among you.” – Deut. 15 and 24.
The life and anticipation that these projects cultivate have helped Rwandan women (70 percent of Rwanda’s population was female after the genocide) to move beyond a tragedy that could so easily consume them. One of the greatest lessons female survivors had to learn was to bridge their differences and work side by side with neighbours whose relatives killed members of their family. Here there is no eye for an eye. No tooth for a tooth. One survivor states that “the solution for what happened is to cultivate peace, have no resentment or hatred, and thereby becoming a good example to those who see you.” Another survivor shares: “I have learnt to avoid ignorance. I especially want people to know that crime and violence are punishable by the laws.”
What can we learn from the genocide – those of us who did not witness or experience these three months of horror? We can learn from the steadfast hearts of the people who survived this terror and continue to praise and honour God in the hurricanes of life. “Why are you downcast, oh my soul, why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalm 42:11). After experiencing the hateful force of the genocide, many widows and survivors of the genocide proclaim, with voices that must surely be making way for our Redeemer to return: I praise God! I thank God! He has answered my prayers!
Darlene and Mark Zschech encourage us to get involved: “for some it is raising money, for others it is sending people, for some it is about physically going there.” We are reminded here of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation that “each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give” and that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). And with our giving hearts, the landlocked country beautifully dotted with small farms and known for its yields of coffee and tea, will yield God’s peace, prosperity and purpose.