This week marks the passage of the twentieth year after the open hostilities of the Rwandan genocide.

This week marks the passage of the twentieth year after the open hostilities of the Rwandan genocide. It is usually marked from the time on April 6th when violence broke out after the plane carrying both the Rwandan and Burundian Presidents was shot down as it approached Kigali Airport, but prior to that tension was building and the stage was being set for the meltdown. One can hear the tension in the words of this Rwandan radio broadcast from April 7, 1994:  
Therefore at home, you know it, Rwanda is living through a particularly hard chapter of its history since last week events further to the tragic death of the late President Juvenal Habyarimana, who disappeared at the same time as his Burundian homologue, Cyprien Ntaryamira in the attempt against the presidential plane shot down by a rocket as it came up at Kigali airport. You know the following, instantly was triggered a wave of violence without precedence, mainly in Kigali first and some other regions of the country next.
Note: describing the Burundian President as a “homologue” of the Rwandan President may be a new term, since it is not a common one in English usage. It stems from the Greek ‘omologos homologos, or “same word.”
Even as horrific as this broadcast indicates the situation was, it was actually understated. In addition to killing that took place at the hands of military forces, there were also hundreds of thousands killed by those who were intent on stamping out the tribal minority with whom they were estranged.
There are three things that are vitally important to say about the Rwandan genocide:
1. It did not occur in a vacuum.
2. The leaders and people of Rwanda have done an amazing work of reconciliation following the violence.
3. Any sense of moral superiority from people in the West, especially in the US, is terribly misplaced.
1. It did not occur in a vacuum.
Of course all human conflict has its origin in sin, but as is the case in many African countries that were former colonies of European countries, some of the tensions rose out of the way that the Europeans set up structures. Often, they would empower one group over another in order to more readily control the population. In Rwanda, Belgian and French influence so empowered one group over another that a person of wealth (with, for example, ten cows) would be reclassified into the other group if they lost their cattle. It may have made for easier administration by the Europeans, but one can easily imagine how it stirred resentment.
The context also included a rise in rhetoric over quite a long period of time. I can remember listening to radio broadcasts that referred to one group as “cockroaches who do not have the right to even exist, but should be eliminated and thrown on the garbage dump.” Incivility of discourse provides an open door to a rise of tension and such dehumanization that violence that at one time seems unthinkable becomes “justifiable” (at least in the minds of the perpetrators).
2. The leaders of Rwanda have done an amazing work of reconciliation following the violence.
The genocide was so horrific, and impacted so many people that when people came to their senses, they were willing to pay the price to be reconciled even with those who had killed family members. The actual genocide numbered about 100 days. The work to begin to heal the wounds from it has taken decades. We should take heart, however. If the divisions and horrors of Rwanda can be healed, other cultures should be able to learn from Rwanda and resolve their conflicts. Walking in Rwanda right after the genocide – when there were still bodies lying where they were slain – I remember thinking that the blood-soaked ground was crying out. Now when one walks in Rwanda in those same areas that have embraced the fullness of the Gospel of Christ, there is a palpable peace. That is an amazing, Holy Spirit miracle; one that is not limited to Rwanda but one that God wants to replicate in other places.
3. Any sense of moral superiority from people in the West, especially in the US, is terribly misplaced.
It is easy for Westerners, perhaps especially Americans, to say, “How savage the situation was in Rwanda.” Americans are easily outraged on learning that 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda, killed mostly with machetes. But the Rwandan genocide pales compared to the 55 million that have been killed in the US through abortions. The vast majority of abortions do not rise out of conflict or violence, but rather out of inconvenience. People do not want to be inconvenienced by the fruit of their actions and so they choose abortion, thinking that it is the easy way out. Moral decisions have consequences, though. Without a doubt, judgment will come to America for the slaughter of the unborn.
The Rwandan genocide anniversary raises a serious question. Was the genocide just an anomaly of history or is it something that could take place in another culture? Sadly, I see things happening in American culture that are depressingly related to the things that preceded the genocide in Rwanda. Almost every day, there are reports of things happening in which the dominant presumption is of cultural moral rightness which is vastly different from the moral compass of Biblical values.
For example, Brandon Eich, CEO of Mozilla (the company that produces the Firefox web browser among other things) was just forced to leave his job because six years ago he donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign in California. He was by no means an activist. I have not been able to find other factors that were involve in his ouster. In fact, self-described “gay activists” this week have said that “Eich does not deserve to have a job,” simply because he donated to a campaign which disagreed with an activist judge who ordered same-sex marriage in California. Particularly concerning to me is the aroma of demonization that I smell around Eich’s firing that is so reminiscent of  pre-genocide Rwandan attitudes.
In another case, Julea Ward, a student counsellor at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) was sacked because she referred a client to another counsellor because the person wanted counsel on her lesbian relationship. Her supervisor at EMU said that it was simply unacceptable for Julea to fail to go through “remediation,” which is a euphemistic way of saying “re-education.”
In a third case yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a photographer who refused to photograph a ceremony of a same-sex couple who wanted to marry. For refusing to photograph the service, the photographer has been fined and ordered to comply. It is unlikely that a same-sex couple would actually want photographs taken by a person who did not agree with their same-sex union. It is more likely that it was pursued in order to advance the same-sex political agenda.
There are several things to take away from all this. First, realize that we in America are on a horrible moral footing because we have allowed 55 million abortions. There are surely consequences from this disaster. Second, we should be greatly concerned with the demonization of Christians by the culture and the media. The positions we hold because we have received God’s revelation in Scripture are increasingly rejected by American culture. I believe it will get worse. Recently the Governor of New York listed groups of people who are not welcome in New York. That is not a great gulf away from “cockroaches on the garbage dump.” While he did not in any way speak of the legitimacy of violence against “those” people, neither did the Rwandans originally.
In the West, including those of us in the United States, we need to realize that we are on a greased path toward Babylon. At least we can choose to be as faithful as Jesus. That doesn’t mean that our walk won’t be costly. We just know that it will be more costly soon.
One of the most tragic things about this reality is the fact that what is becoming the loudest voice in the culture only exists because Christians who were in the majority protected the ideas and speech of even those with whom they steadfastly disagreed. If we had not protected the speech of those who have gone before us and disagree with us, their voice would not existed today. Sadly, hardly anyone on the left is protecting those who disagree with them now. One day, they will find out how foolish they have been.