Friday, February 19, 2016

Dear Immaculée Ilibagiza: Response to "Left to Tell"

                 You do not know me, yet having read “Left to Tell:Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust” you have shared a deeply personal, intimate experience with the reader. Now I feel obliged to share how your story has impacted my own life, and thoughts on an unfortunately dark side of human nature. It seems rather important that I begin by telling you, I do not believe in a God. I am not a deeply religious person, and having been raised a Buddhist in a South Asian country that had its own share of civil war (nothing compared to Rwanda of course). Having grown up in such a background, I could not help but realize how easily people can be manipulated by powerful racist rhetoric to serve the narrow purposes of a small group of people. I appreciated your story made very clear that instead of over simplifying a very complex issue, but breaking down the issue to simply Hutus vs Tutsis, you made clear the issue was between extremists who were ignorant, cruel Hutus against moderate Hutus and Tutsis. This was a very important aspect I considered while reading through your harrowing but unique perspective of the Rwandan experience. Your remarkable faith is extraordinary, something my skeptical atheist nature finds difficult to comprehend. It has nonetheless, forced me to consider how faith functions as an important factor for reconciliation, reintegration and post-genocide Rwanda. After all, what has happened does not help those who survived moved on, and you offer an admirable model that points out vengeance does not serve the purpose of moving forward. 
            However, faith, trust in God and forgiveness in no way minimize the moral and legal culpability of the perpetrators of genocide; compassion is one thing, justice, another. The question arises, how is it possible to convict a vast number of people who committed such atrocities, often the witnesses the victims and those who survived the genocide, mostly fellow perpetrators of the exact same crimes.  Yet, some form of truth telling and deliberations are important.  Redemption can only be achieved through a process of some form of justice, and most importantly ensure that mechanisms are set in place to ensure Rwanda never again disintegrates in to such utter chaos and madness.

Post-genocide Rwanda is also a country of traumatized people. It is clear even those who committed the killings were in no way emerging out of this horrific time, ever to be ‘normal’ again. It is important these failings of humanity are discussed, rehabilitation services made available and most importantly people are able to heal. Faith is a powerful way to heal, as you have exemplified in your struggle to forgive. I cannot help but admire you. Yet, I would gently point out, for those who do not have a faith in God, they must also have an avenue for some closure, and for them, justice and due process may perhaps be the only way to go on. It must be a combination of all the above. Thank you for your bravery and compassion, you are truly an inspiration for all of humanity, urging them to be better, breaking the cycle of violence and hate. Until people can look at each other as truly equals, without the prejudices of ethnicity, religion or nationality, there will always be a danger of another holocaust, another Rwanda. I hope we can all learn from this disturbing past, to reflect on the fragile elements in our society that preserves what makes us human, and ultimately, civilized. 

Thank you. 

P.S - This was a class assignment, and I had to save it somewhere. Can't help but draw the similarities to any country recovering from a post-war world. 

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