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meditations on darkness and light

The rainy season has brought a dash of brilliant colors to the countryside, which we’re hastening to enjoy before a somber cloud envelops Rwanda next week.

Scores of brilliantly-colored bishops in our backyard, birds in their breeding plumage down at the little lake D sometimes frequents with our dog, lush greenery nurtured by the rains. The flashes of natural beauty all seem a tad incongruous when juxtaposed against the approaching genocide commemoration – much like the expansive vistas of the Julian Alps and the dazzling color of the Soca River felt surreal in the context of the region’s WWI past.

April 7 is a dark day in Rwanda’s history – the day 23 years ago that ordinary citizens, spurred on by government-controlled media and under the direction of their local leaders, picked up their machetes and unleashed one of the greatest horrors of the twentieth century. An estimated 800,000 people would lose their lives over the course of the subsequent 100 days.

Much has been written about the events of 1994, and the trajectory the country subsequently took to dealing with the magnitude of what happened. Much also has been said about the world’s reaction – in the run-up to, during, and after the genocide. We won’t add our words to the mix, though we would be happy to point those of our readers who want to learn more towards publications that do a better job of dealing with the gravity of the events than we could ever hope to.

Rwandans are adept at compartmentalizing and, to the untrained eye, life goes on as usual right up to the moment the collective psyche goes dark, official business grinds to a halt, and the nation submerges itself into mournful soul-searching. We too have been busy going about our usual affairs, rushing to meet deadlines and consumed with everyday worries, pausing just occasionally to meditate on the significance and direction of our work here.

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