Today I shook the hands of three mass murderers. I shook their hands. I made them smile. I asked them about their kids and wives. I then sat and listened as they told me how they smashed the heads of children with bricks. How they raped and murdered dozens of people-- too many to count. How they ordered a massacre of hundreds, if not thousands. And these men-these convicted killers have been set free or will be set free in the near future.
The theme running through my head as we interview person after person is unexplainable grace. I should be able to comprehend it. Isn't that exactly what the Lord has done in me. Unexplainable grace. I deserve the worst for my sin- I deserve death. Yet he bestows unconditional forgiveness. I shouldn't feel so angry that tens of thousands of killers walk these streets everyday. They have repented, asked for forgiveness from their survivors, and have been released. But I just don't get it.
Simon works as a groundskeeper at a memorial site about an hour outside Kigali. It is a church where 5,000 Tutsi took refuge when the Hutus descended on their community. They carried enough supplies for a few days and holed themselves up under the shadow of the cross. They thought they wouldn't be killed if they were in the church. They were wrong. Simon was just a boy of 12 at the time. He hid with is mother and sisters inside. the Hutu militia didn't care- in fact it was the catholic priests who were instigators of Tutsi locations. When the grenade went off and the enemy stormed, Simon ran for his life. He returned hours later to find everyone in the church slashed yo death. As he spoke, he pointed to the wall where he found his mother face down. He turned her over- her arms, legs, and torso had been severed. Yet- she was still alive. As he looked in her eyes she simply said, "where are the children?" Hutu militia began running up the street. He ran. That was the last time he saw his mother alive.
The church still holds the bones of the dead. They line the wall. Skulls, ribs, femurs. As Simon prepared to walk along that wall- studying the bones for our shot- he turned his gaze at me. With tears in his eyes, he shook his head no. We got him to make that walk... But only once. Even after 15 years, after facing his attackers and accepting their apologies, the pain is still fresh.
We started today 3 hours from Kigali. A memorial site where 50,000 people where brutally massacred. After seeing so many skulls and bones yesterday, I wasnt sure I wanted to see more. Before the genocide, this place was a school and the surroundings are beautiful. Magnificent hills rise all around. The view- spectacular. During the genocide, hutus used this school to lure Tutsi's. Tutsi's were lied to and promised safety and protection. When enough Tutsi's had settled on the school ground- they attacked. They killed all but maybe 55. They dumped bodies everywhere.
After the genocide, there were hundreds of bodies that had not yet decomposed. It order to preserve the memories of the genocide, they covered the bodies in limestone. The bodies are now decomposing at a much lower rate. As we waked into former classrooms, body on top of body slept silent. White corpses. Clothes on, hair in tact. One woman still wore Heers wedding band. You could see faces and breasts and childrens little toes. There were legs that had been hacked off so the injured couldn't run. There were mouths wide open and arms blocking faces, and a single finger pointing up as if the victims was trying to reason. The smell was almost unbearable. I started to tear up as we went from room to room. These were people. People wiped out for not looking a certain way.
While the guys went back to shoot- I had to wait outside. The heaviness in those classrooms was overwhelming.
We ended our day at a prison. Where strangely, I felt compassion for these men. Tens of thousands have already been released. Mny more will be released at the 20 year mark. We talked to one man who killed and raped so many and was sentenced to death. He apologized to the survivors of families and repented for his crime. His sentenced was reduced to 20 years..
I think what's hardest to grasp is that these people should be paying for their unspeakable crimes- yet they just apologize and they are set free. My American mind can't comprehend this unexplainable grace.
But I want to know- so we'll keep exploring. We have a story line- tomorrow the search for our character begins. Pray that the Lord leads us to the right man. Pray that we find an english speaking killer. Pray that our team keeps working and collaborating as one. Pray against dissension between us as we explore. We are allfeelig ver emotional about the things we have seen and heard.
Thanks for praying!