Dispatches from Rwanda

The CRS Eileen Egan Fellowship meets with his Grace, Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege, center, from the Diocese of Kabgayi.  Left to right are Kerry Weber, Ron LaJoie, Lisa Hendey, and Michelle Bauman.  (Photo courtesy of Lisa Hendey.)

The CRS Eileen Egan Fellowship meets with his Grace, Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege, center, from the Diocese of Kabgayi. Left to right are Kerry Weber, Ron LaJoie, Lisa Hendey, and Michelle Bauman. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Hendey.)

Of all the quotes I’ve heard since coming to CRS, the one that sticks with me came out of Rwanda: “Reconciliation is the genius of Catholics.” It keeps coming back to mind as I read the dispatches of our Egan Awards Fellows currently reporting from Rwanda, a place where the stories of unthinkable atrocities and miraculous reconciliations are told side by side. You can hardly tell one without the other.

You can follow the adventures of our Egan fellows through the Twitter hashtag #CRSEgan

America magazine magaging editor Kerry Weber, writes about visiting Kigali Memorial Centre, dedicated to memory of the victims of the country’s 1994 genocide:

You will not be able to pass by without tears the display for Francine Murengezi Ingabire, a girl with a wide smile and closely cropped hair, which reads:

Age: 12
Favourite sport: swimming
Favourite food: eggs and chips
Favourite drink: milk and Fanta Tropical
Best Friend: her elder sister Claudette
Cause of death: hacked by machete

Read the full article.

The story is chilling. But as I said, the story of forgiveness and reconciliation is right next door. Lisa Hendey of Catholic Mom, in her continuing travel journal, tells of visiting a reconciliation community of Genocide survivors:

These women have chosen to live in community and have been supported in recent years by Catholic Relief Services. Our meeting with the widows took place in an open field surrounded by goats and their small housing structures. … it was clear to me that these matriarchs have forged a bond that has allowed them to not only survive horrific loss and grief, but also to become a support and a family to one another. I could have stayed at Kamonyi all day. One lasting impression of this place is the reminder that our donations to Catholic Relief Services, modest though they may sometimes be, can have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of the families support by CRS. These widows were quick to thank us for the goats that had been gifted to their community in the past year from CRS. For less than the price a family of four would pay for a dinner out at home in the US, an equivalent donation could be a lifeline to people living on the edge of devastation.

Read the full article.

Michelle Bauman of Catholic News Agency and EWTN News writes from inside her pink mosquito net how she tried to steel herself for the stories, but even as her capacity is strained to understand the pain of the genocide’s victims, she finds the burdens of the perpetrators just as challenging:

As much as I try, I cannot fathom the pain and suffering these people have experienced. I cannot imagine the horror of watching your loved ones be killed or the shock and disgust of seeing the piles of dead bodies on the side of the road.

Nor can I comprehend the guilt and regret of those who were involved in the killings. While the leaders of the genocide were calculated and intentional in their thirst for blood, a significant part of the massacre was carried out by average Rwandans, killing their neighbors and colleagues –some were mere children coerced into participating, others were adults caught up in the frenzy of intoxicating hatred surrounding them. After coming to their senses, they have had to live each day of the past two decades with the shame of their actions hovering over them.

I cannot imagine what those 100 days were like for the people of Rwanda, and I cannot imagine what the last 20 years have been like, or the difficult work of healing that remains.

Read the full article.

HendeyFollow Lisa Hendey on Twitter.
Read her articles at Catholic Mom.
Read her articles at Patheos.
Read her articles at Catholic Tourist.
(All three outlets are running her Rwanda Journal.)
WeberFollow Kerry Weber on Twitter.
Read her articles at America.
BaumanFollow Michelle Bauman on Twitter.
Read her articles at the Catholic News Agency
Read her articles at the National Catholic Register.
LaJoieRead Ron Lajoie‘s articles at Catholic New York.

Also travelling with the fellows are Helen Blakesley, the CRS regional information officer for West and Central Africa, and Kim Pozniak, the CRS communications officer for Sub-Saharan Africa.  We’re very excited about our delegates and will keep you informed about their journey, as well as linking to their reports as they appear in their own outlets. Please keep them in your prayers, as well as the workers and beneficiaries they will be visiting.

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