Friday, September 21, 2012

The Rescuers

 Well, I promised a more uplifting story.  And while it’s not about a wedding (I'll share that some other time), it is about people who risked their lives to save others during the genocide.

“Rescuer” is the term usually used here to describe someone who was Hutu who risked her or his life to save someone who was Tutsi.  The last few days, I had the privilege of interviewing several rescuers in Kibuye, a gorgeous town in the western part of Rwanda.

When the violence started, interim government officials said that anyone caught helping a Tutsi would be killed (often along with her or his family).  But, some people risked their lives anyway. 

In order to visit the first Rescuer, my translator and I rented a moto and drove to a small village outside of Kibuye.  We parked the moto when the road became too narrow and then hiked up to his house in the mountains, past goats, cows, and many children waving at us. 

Once at his house, we sat on benches in his living room, and he told us about how people came to his house to ask for help when the genocide started.  He decided to help them and allowed them to hide in his home.  Eventually, perpetrators found out that he was hiding Tutsi, and they came to his house. They chopped off his leg with a machete and left him, thinking he would die shortly afterward.  He crawled into a ditch and waited until they were gone before going to the hospital, where his leg was amputated.  He survived, though, as did many of the people he hid at his home.

The second Rescuer with whom we spoke lived very close to Lake Kivu, which is a lake that also borders the Congo.  During the genocide, she helped Tutsis find boats and make their way across the lake in order to escape.   Each time, she risked her life to walk them to the lake at night. 

The third Rescuer also hid many Tutsis in her house, which was very, very small.  They hid under beds and in the bushes outside, and she and her husband brought them food when they thought no one was looking.  Once, she even found a baby abandoned in a group of dead bodies—the Interahamwe (milita) and other soldiers had killed everyone and left the baby to die.  So, she took the baby home and treated her as her own child, who she regards as a daughter to this day. 

I asked each person how s/he found the strength to help others, and they all said that it was simply what was right.  Each also noted that they found their strength in God and that they weren’t heroes.  But, they truly are.  

1 comment:

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