Today is Easter Sunday but instead of going to church like I usually do, I followed the service on TV. This year’s Easter, like this year’s everything, is different. After a moving televised service, I watched a video of a true story found on the Genocide Archive of Rwanda.
Apart from being an unusual Easter weekend as a result of the outbreak of COVID- 19, it happens to coincide with the commemoration week of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
This year’s commemoration is different too. For the first time, we are remembering and paying tribute to our beloved ones while staying at home in a bid to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
While avoiding gatherings, we are engaged in discussions and renewing our Never Again vows. We have found a way to stay connected while observing social distancing. Technology is playing a key role in enabling us to commemorate in an unusual way.
Uwamahoro Grace was a young girl when the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi erupted. She is a Hutu who rescued a Tutsi baby, following a plea from the baby’s dying mother who eventually succumbed to machete-inflicted wounds. Grace named her adopted baby Uwase Vanessa and raised her despite strong opposition from her family.
Grace’s family pushed her to abandon the baby. Rescuing and raising a Tutsi child had put the family at risk. She ignored her family’s persistent pushing and kept Vanessa under her wing. Raising a child at a tender age, with meagre resources and lack of support, wasn’t an easy feat but she overcame all the challenges life threw her way.
Vanessa grew up and became a beautiful, intelligent girl. She heard rumors that Grace wasn’t her biological mother. When she asked Grace whether word on the street was true or not, she was told the truth.
Ibuka’s President, Prof. Dusingizemungu Jean Pierre was quoted saying, "Rescuers command a special recognition in our society." They took a stand against divisionism and hatred. They risked their own lives saving others, an act considered betrayal by the perpetrators and the entire state-sponsored genocidal machinery.
Twenty six years ago, humanity flew out of the window but Grace and other rescuers defended the Rwandan cultural fabric of compassion. Her touching story is featured in a film titled Ubumuntu.