|whose husbands are in jail accused of being perpetrators of the genocide. She is from both groups! Cecile will be one of the evening plenary speakers at the Friends General Conference Gathering next summer.
Sizeli Marcelin, a Tutsi, is the Coordinator of the Friends Peace House in Kigali. At the beginning of the genocide his whole family was killed. He was hidden in the rafters of Kucikiro’s Friends Church for a few days until the Hutu hiding him told him he had better leave. Sizeli spent a night traveling the short distance to the Amahoro Stadium which was being (sort-of) protected by the UN. He was so angry that he decided he would join the Tutsi army to get revenge, but then he heard a Christian group singing a song which had the sentence, “Only God can seek revenge.” Sizeli immediately remembered that God is a God of Peace and decided to seek reconciliation which is what he has been doing at the Friends Peace House.
Sizeli told me this story in 1999 giving me the exact dates when he learned that one son and one daughter had survived the genocide. The son is named Patrick Mwenedata. Here is part of his story. Patrick was 13 at the time of the genocide. When his family was killed, he became the head of a “family” of seven children. As he was running near the Church, he was holding the hand of his three year old cousin. He heard a grenade. explode. In order to run faster, he picked up his cousin. “Blood was flowing everywhere. I put him on the ground, covered him with a few leaves and ran on.” His little cousin had already died in his arms.
Later an interahamwe, the militia responsible for much of the killing during the genocide, caught him by the coat. He slipped out of his coat and ran into the forest. As they were running, another person who had been hiding in the forest began to run and the interahamwe ran after the other person. In other words, Patrick is alive because someone else probably is dead. In these days of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US, it is important to note that Patrick was hidden by Muslims in a mosque for part of the time of the genocide.
Solange Maniraguha was also 13 at the time of the genocide. On the first day of the genocide the interahamwe broke through the roof of her house and killed her parents. Then one of them said to Solange, “Get out, get out!” which she did. So the person who killed her parents saved her life. Some Hutu neighbors hid her for two days. Two hundred and fifty thousand Tutsi survived the genocide and most of them were saved by one or many Hutu. Life is much more complex than “good” versus “evil.”
These, my friends, are the Quakers of Rwanda and Burundi. Today all are extensively involved with peacemaking, reconciliation, and community healing. What lessons can we learn from the work these Quakers do?
AGLI partners with Burundi Yearly Meeting and the Friends Peace House in Rwanda on a program we are developing called “Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities”—HROC, pronounced “He-Rock” In these workshops, ten Hutu and ten Tutsi are brought together for three days in order to understand their trauma, grief, anger, and to rebuild trust. After one of these workshops in Mutaho, Burundi, Agnes Ndyishimiye, a Tutsi from Mutaho, Burundi, whose husband was killed during the violence, attended one of these workshops. In this region of Africa, people are often afraid of being poisoned. Giving a person food and accepting it is therefore a sign of forgiveness and reconciliation. The Hutu administrator held responsible for the killing of the Tutsi, including Agnes’s husband, was now 25 miles away in the Gitega prison. At the end of the HROC workshop she said:
I am happy that I leave this workshop with a new dream that there will be a special day. That day, I see myself going to the Gitega prison where our former