The Fourth of July is a time for celebration of liberation, quality time with family and friends and good food... in Rwanda. 15 years ago on America's birthday in 1994 is the date many Rwandans point to as the turning point in their national nightmare. On July 4th, 1994 exiled Rwandan fighters took over the capital of Kigali. But not before extremist Hutus slaughtered approximately 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis, also moderate Hutus. Neighbors picked up machetes to slaughter neighbors, husbands killed wives, children and their own parents. The Rwandan Patriotic Front forces then murdered hundreds of thousands more civilians, mainly Hutus in the weeks that followed. Amidst the killing, rape was commonplace. Today nearly every Rwandan suffers from the psychological, if not physical scars, as they struggle to find ways to coexist. That battle is becoming especially difficult as the prisons, horribly crowded with killers, are releasing killers. The murderers often have no choice but to return to the same neighborhoods where they killed. The Reconciliation's Reach team will document encounters between these released prisoners and survivors. The two groups will spend several days together learning about the history of the genocide and beginning to attempt to find ways to rehumanize their enemies, work together, or at least live side by side peacefully.
One group, REACH, founded by a Rwandan Minister who lost 36 relatives in the genocide, will celebrate the culmination of 13 years of this work on July 17th. Our filmmaking team will be there as REACH opens its Center for Unity and Peace in Kigali.
The next day we travel to Ruhango village where young people come together for two days of learning, entertainment and fellowship at the Rwanda Youth Healing Center. Many leaders of the organization have grown within the group to become teachers. They focus on healing the psychological trauma of the genocide so that young people can lead productive lives.
July 21st we will travel to the village of Rusumo, a small town close to the border of Burundi. REACH will hold a 3 day workshop we will attend. We will stay in the village for several days to see what happens when participants take lessons learned back into their community. How do survivors cope with the knowledge their families killers are back living next door? How do killers manage to try to rebuild a life in a neighborhood they helped to destroy?
In late July we will visit a different 3 day workshop sponsored by AGLI (Africa Great Lakes Initiative) called HROC (Healing and Reconciliation Our Communities). This workshop in Gasabo brings together an equal amount of survivors with recently released prisoners. We will explore the different tacts the two groups take in their seminars.
All of these groups claim success in healing seemingly impossible rifts in relationships. Throughout our journey we will meet and get to know the seminar participants, introducing them to you to better understand how they are able to begin to reconcile and in some cases, why they are not. We invite your ideas, comments and contributions as we embark on this exploration. ---
See what else we've been up to:
-A live interview with the filmmaker on ABC-TV: