I was interested to read the News Letter’s coverage (January 29) of the visit of Jean Paul Samputu to Northern Ireland to speak of the Rwandan genocide.
I lived in Rwanda for 18 months in 2012/2013, working on an international development project; it was something of a life-changing experience.
Coming from Northern Ireland, I was no stranger to inter-communal violence and death and I have worked in many other conflict areas worldwide.
However the scale of the Rwandan tragedy in 1994 is almost beyond belief, rivalling that of the Holocaust in Europe; indeed, arguably even more horrific, given that around one million people were butchered in as little as 100 days.
On the 2012 anniversary of the genocide, I went with Rwandan friends and colleagues to attend a genocide memorial ceremony in a little village about 20 kilometres from the capital, Kigali.
In this village there was a small Anglican church, and in the crypt of this church were the collected remains of some of the 35,000 people who were massacred in that one place alone.
So this tiny village, with a population of only 200 people, experienced within a matter of weeks a slaughter ten times greater than that suffered by us during our entire conflict.
What was even more difficult for me was the paradox of reconciling this past horror with the happy, friendly and welcoming people among whom I lived and worked. Rwanda is a lovely country, safe, with a pleasant climate and a people who are warm and kind – yet it was here that one of the most dreadful events in modern history took place.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Rwanda and hope to return there.
And I would also wish to say that the message of forgiveness spoken by Jean Paul Samputu is one which is fervently echoed by virtually all of the Rwandan people, even those like him – of which there are many – who have much to forgive.