July 22, 2008


I was beginning to think there would be no opportunity to find a keyboard on which I could compose, but voila. About my trip to Byumba (last Thursday) with Joyce the translator. I ended up doing the mediation myself as that seemed to be the expectation, which was not shared with me until the last minute. C'est la vie ici. It concerned two pastors whose church I will not name. They had been having an ongoing dispute for three years. It went public and they were arrested twice for public disorder. Also, parishoners spent up to three weeks in jail over this dispute. We spent an intense six and a half hours including continuing in a restaurant during lunch and walking back to the mediation center. At the end they were a bit closer to realization of ending their dispute. As one said, "the seeds of peace have been planted". I hope someone spreads some fertilizer and waters the situation soon. Joyce and I and 4 month old Bridget rode back to Kigali on the bus for another 90 minutes to end a long day. In retrospect , I never thought I would be able to mediate in the African context, but it seemed to work with the help of a great translator. It was intense yet I somehow felt invigorated by the process and refreshed at the end of it. There were serious accusations of wrongdoing which I merely reflected back to them each time, to let them try to communicate about many misunderstandings. It took us over an hour to even come to the point of agreeing to do the mediation. At home I just read an agreement to mediate, ask if there are any questions, answer them and get to work. I slipped into my own theology (yes, Marie) but quickly weaseled my way out before I got into trouble. 

About Joyce and her husband Gaston... they are a beautiful young Rwandan couple with two daughters Jessica, age 4, and Bridget, 4 months. Both parents are orphans themselves. Photos of the family will eventually be on the blog but that may not happen until I get home. Gaston was orphaned during the war. He now does Healing and rebuilding Our Communities HROC workshops and serves his community as leader of population sector called a cell, made up of about 150 families. He does this without pay. Joyce will be starting a BA in Economics in January. When she was a week old her mother was poisoned by someone and her father died of grief shortly afterward. Apparently he came to the baptism and was so distraught that he had to leave. People ran after hm and he fell and died. Joyce was raised in Uganda in a refugee Rwandan family. They came to Rwanda after the war, as many of those exiles did. She met Gaston and their lives continue here They are such kind people and I think many people see this deep gift of caring that they have for each other and for others. I am overwhelmed by both of them and am thankful that our roads have intersected. 

Last Friday July July 17 or 18?. The day before during a meal I discovered that I've been having some trouble with a molar that has a crown. Meat gets caught in some places and can start some significan discomfort. Friday when I had a light lunch it got quite bad and by supper if I had been in a dentist's office I would have requested an extraction. Not having that option I tried rinsing with salt water, then mouth wash and gnawed on some Aleve , and Emily gave me most of her reserve of Tylenol as she is leaving here in 5 days. I got through Friday night and things got better. I will back off eating chewy food and meat for awhile and see if this helps. I really don't want to go to a dentist because last night the only solution seemed to be pull it out and risk hepatitis in the process. I was even contemplating flying off to Nairobi if need be, but everything got better the next day. Later there would be some pain on the other side of my mouth which led me to believe there was some kind of neurlagia and not an infection. Also on Friday the events that filled the day may have also been the source of the tooth pain. 

Visit to the site of an act of genocide and genoide museum in Kigali. This county is spattered, speckled, marked, with memorials , mass graves, and national genoide memorial sites. Naitonal genocide memorial is located in Kigali at Gsozi. Near towhere I stay is Nyamata, a small town. Emily had gone to both places and informed me how to get there. At Nyamata over 4000 people were killed inside a catholic church. It was a 30 minute bus ride to the village from where I stay in Kicukiro Center on the edge of Kigali. We passed several memoral sites on the way and finally came to a small town built along the highway with dusty roads branching off at right angles. Reddust permeates every bit of yur clothing, through youor shoes and soks and between toes and under toe nails. Emily said it would be a ten minute walk up the highway after getting off the bus to the road leading to the church. My driver seemed to know where I was headed and kept me on the busto the exact point leading to the church. from there it was a 250 meter walk past local government buildings, all covered in the red dust. I passed a primary school with a wall painted toshow the parts of the body and a full skeleton with major bones. apreview of what was to come. SIt saves buying an anatomy text. finally a small but moder looking building turned out to be the actual church, not a reconstruction over the old church became visible. It was surrounded by a high white painted iron fence. The building is wider than it is deep and the floor descends toward an altar. Pews form a semi circle around the altar. From that point the macabre begins. Each pew is stacked with clothing taken from the bodies that were found in and around the church or that were buried in mass graves. Every place in every pew has clothing at least a foot deep. Bones, primarily skulls, arms, and legs are stored in shelves in catacombs below ground level under and behind the church.One skull amongst the hundreds that I saw had a name inscribed on the forehead, Pascal. some skulls had visible wounds, holes, fractures, slashes. Many in this churh were killed by grenades thrown in through windows and the ventilation ports inthe brick. Four thousand died in this room. I cannot imagine even getting that many into this small church standing and alive. Our most brutal of abbatoirs pale by comparison. The metal roof is pock marked from fragmentation grenades. Ten minutes from here another church at Ntarama had the same events take place. Tutsis came to those churches seeking refuge. they were granted nothing. There is no overpowering smell of death after14 years, only a musty odor coming from the decaying, blood stained clothing. Never have clothes spoken so loudly and clearly about history. we can go to museums and see carefully preserved costumes from the 17th or 18th centuries worn by famous people. 

Here in Nyamata we know only a few of the names. They wore the polyester and cottons fabricated in sweatshops around theworld or knit by hand inthe Orkneys, or displayed in shops on Rodeo Drive, given as gifts or purchased at a moment of vanity worn in America , England and Holland and a thousand other places an discarded and sent to Africa. Now they unite all whoever touched or sold or carried thes clothes on their backs. The ghosts ask what all those who touched these clothes before them couldhave done to stop the deeds that brought themto this place, or to stop the deeds like this that continue to happen. These clothes brought me to my knees. People still ive and work in tis town. There are schools only 100yards away. Chldren are playing , arguing, being kids as I walk away from the church. I cannot run out of here. I want to but.... Going back to Saturday. Up at 6:30 feeling great all things considered. Breakfast with emily and Andrew. I will remember the long conversations with Emily. She is such a caring person , but along with that , she has already lived a very interesting life just out of college at Haverford in Philadelphia. She lacks the naivite that most her age seem infected from when they get out of college. I learned that among her many accomplishments, she was selected either this year or last as one of 18 yound quakers to represent the American friends Service Committe at the annual gathering of Nobel Laureates. in Rome. The AFSCon the Nobel Peace Prize in the late 1940's for their work in refugee camps in Europe. A weathy Laureate frm Germany who cold no longer attend the annual gathering donated $1 million to AFSC to send those youth. Andrew too is a very caring and intelligent young man. He will be out here for 3 years living on very littel unless he can get funding for several projects. (I learn I have 14 minutes. The cafe is already closed). We learned that we are both novice jugglers. He mentioned that when he was in an IDP camp in Goma that a bunch of children were staring at him for a long time and not speaking their language, he wished he had brought along his juggling balls. I brought mine so we did an improptu performance for Emily. A taxi came for me and I was ast the Kigali bus station by 900am. Bought my tiket for Gisenyi, across from the Congo border. The bus left at 11am. It's about 3 hours through the mountaing coming to Ruhngeri where the gorillas can be seen in Rwanda. Of course they don't come down to the road and wave to he bus passengers, but we could see the mount whre they live. It was not a very clear day, but it was possible to see maybe three fourths of the way up the mountain. I could only think of King Kong at that time. Sorry. 

There is a three dimensional map of these mountains in this month's National Geographic. The gorilla domains extend into Uganda and the Congo Most of them live in the Congo and the human conflict and the need for wood to make charcoal for cooking threatens their habitat and existence. Millions of people need cooking fuel in this area. A few hundred gorillas need a habitat. Any ideas? I will close now happy that I've found an English keyboard and will be back to morrow to talk more about the trip to the Congo and the class that I've been teaching now for two days with Samuel Kamanzi. 



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