“Peace” such a simple word. Some take it for granted and others would give anything to have it in their lives.
Rwandans know the real cost of peace because in the past they lived for some decades without it, and later leading to one of the darkest chapters in their history; the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi because of ethnical and divisive ideologies. The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi claimed over 1 million lives.
Peace can simply be defined as freedom from disturbance, a state of tranquility or in other cases a state or period in which there is no war or it has ended.
Even though Rwanda is now peaceful and tremendous efforts have been made to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again, the consequences of the Genocide still linger among Rwandans. Studies on holocaust survivors have also shown that Genocide consequences such as trauma can be passed onto the next generations. Cases of such trauma have also been evident in Rwandan youth as well as cases of some young people with divisive ideologies as a result of parents misinforming their children about what really happened in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. With the youth representing the big portion of Rwandan population and being the driving force of the country’s development as well as the assurance of its brighter future, the abovementioned cases showcased a need for more healing and intergenerational dialogues to fight misinformation about the history of Rwanda, foster healing, and sustainable peacebuilding.
In that regard, Rwanda We want organization, in partnership with Interpeace and other partners funded by the European Union celebrated this year’s International Day of Peace in a special way. This day was comprised of activities such as visiting the Nyamata Genocide memorial to pay their respects to the victims of the genocide and gain a deeper understanding of the causes and events that unfolded in Bugesera District during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
This was to be followed by an intergenerational dialogue at a symbolic hill called Kayumba Hill- a hill to where victims had fled and showed courage by resisting to numerous attacks from Hutu militias and the then government soldiers who wanted to kill them during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis- known as a symbol of courage in the face of adversity. This dialogue was also important for the youth to be inspired by the history of Kayumba Hill as well as their elders’ resilience and understand their individual role in promoting sustainable peace.
In his opening remarks, the Interpeace Senior Regional Representative in the Eastern and Central Africa, Dr. Theodorus Hollander highlighted the importance of the intergenerational dialogue as a reconciliation with the past and a good space for drawing lessons to avoid history repeating itself in the future.
“We have seen that people who lived in a genocide can have wounds that transcends generational boundaries so even people that have not experienced it directly can suffer some secondary trauma can suffer something that happened even before they were born and it does not only stop on the second generation, it can even go further as it is also widely studied in generations of survivors from the holocaust. Promoting these intergenerational dialogues is really important and it can be powerful to open up the space to come to terms with the past and make sure the past doesn’t repeat itself,” he said.
What’s happening today, Dr. Theodorus added, is really important for Interpeace and in the near future we’re going to have colleagues and partners from different countries to come and participate in order to learn from what is happening in Rwanda, for the lessons of what’s being generated here are going to be really important to many other places in Rwanda and other countries as well.
The lessons mentioned are not only for today but also for the future generations as today’s youth will be transmitting them to other generations to ensure the continuation of sustainable peace but Tristan Murenzi, the Chairperson of Rwanda We Want organization, told the young participants that it is of paramount importance to know first what you’re fighting against.
“We cannot change or fight what we do not comprehend, so let us learn our history, understand the mistakes that were made and inspire ourselves with the resilience of the survivors and the bravery shown by some (guardians of the pact as they saved lives of Tutsis who were being hunted) in order to build sustainable peace in our country,” said Murenzi.
The intergenerational dialogue consisted of open sharing of testimonies, introspection and reflection and other activities that promoted healing and learning more about sustainable peace; all done in pairs or groups of six people.
Jacqueline Mukamurenzi while sharing how she survived at Kayumba Hill also urged the adults to face the history and not be afraid of it in order to heal from its wounds.
“It was my first time to go to the memorial today even though I live around. We adults should find strength and face our history instead of running from it in order to heal from its wounds,” she confessed adding that forgiveness is what really helped the country to move forward and that the youth should not take it for granted but instead they should learn the history in order to ensure a sustainable peaceful country.
This was reiterated by one of the youth participants, Josiane Ishimwe who urged her fellow young Rwandans to seek information and educate themselves about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
She said: “In order to fight genocide denial as well as parents who manipulate their children, we must actively search for reliable information and educate ourselves on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as well as our country’s history.”
The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 when the United Kingdom and Costa Rica sponsored a United Nations resolution to set aside the opening day of the General Assembly, usually the 3rd Tuesday of September, as the International Day of Peace. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate the Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire. On this day the United Nations invites all nations and people to honor a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.