A Tragic Anniversary
For Palm Sunday last weekend, John Schenk of World Vision was a guest speaker at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Muzizi, Rukara parish, northeast Rwanda. He had been in that village church 10 years ago in the midst of the genocidal killing of more than 800,000 Rwandan Tutsi and moderate Hutu.
Schenk was one of the few photojournalists to videotape that genocide as it happened, and his footage later aired on major television networks in North America, helping to alert the world to the unimaginable carnage in a tiny African nation previously known mostly for its mountain gorillas and, among Christians, for the famous East African Revival of the 1930s.
During the first service, Schenk shared his story of how witnessing the genocide had left him emotionally overwhelmed. He left Africa, after four years of intensive work there, and returned to the United States for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I spoke to the first mass and the intention was actually to speak at the second mass," Schenk told me during a late night phone call from his hotel room in Rwanda earlier this week.
"But we were approached by a young man, Robert, who is the president of the local chapter of the survivors association." Robert was eager to share about their preparations for the tenth anniversary. "We got into a long conversation. He turned out to be this really hurting, deeply wounded young man, who lost his parents, lost five aunts, several uncles." Robert is now 32 and takes care of nine orphans, all children of his murdered family.
"I hate God," the young man said. Schenk told me, "He didn't say that with anger, but complete resignation. He's just done in, broken.
"While I saw much hope and heard stories about genuine forgiveness and repentance, ...