‘I Did Not Make Myself an Orphan’
God’s beauty was hidden when most of the world turned their backs on the horrific genocide that occurred in the country of Rwanda in 1994.
The rest of the world found out about this travesty through news reports and headlines. But Josianne saw it firsthand.
She was only 12 years old when the slaughter began.
Almost everyone I knew was gone. I had a family. My mom and dad and relatives, we had a large family. But then my dad was killed and my relatives were killed. Those who lived near us were killed.
Josianne, her mother, and her 3-year-old sister were the only ones to escape the brutality. When they returned home, they found it all but destroyed.
Mom couldn’t repair our home, so she went into the village to find a man to help. One day, while Mom was home alone, the man raped her. He also infected her with HIV and made her pregnant, Josianne said.
After Josianne’s sister was born, her mother got very sick and eventually died. Josianne became mother to her two sisters at the age of 15. She feeds and clothes them but struggles to find a way to pay for medication for the youngest.
I could sense she had grown up way too fast. At only 24 years of age, Josianne acts much older and has the responsibilities and burdens of a woman twice her age.
Josianne is a mother—not by choice . . . and an orphan—not by choice.
As I walked through the genocide memorial in Kigali, I saw pictures of children who had been killed during the genocide. Listed were their names, ages, what they liked about school, and what their hobbies and interests were.
At the end, it told how they were killed. I could barely read the words—“smashed against a building, macheted in mother’s arms, stabbed in eyes and head.” It was unimaginable. Babies, toddlers, and children coldly slaughtered!
As I looked at the images of one memorial, a particular quote pierced my heart. “I did not make myself an orphan.” The author was listed only as an unknown child affected by the genocide in Rwanda. But the child could very well have been Josianne or any of the other orphans left abandoned.
I have never been able to shake those words. They stir my heart with compassion for the countless children—the orphans, the AIDS victims, the rape survivors, the emotionally traumatized, the spiritually hopeless—who we must never, ever, forget.
Theirs are the cries that echo in my mind. It is the children of Rwanda who continue to suffer the consequences of this decades old crime. Generations upon generations continue to be born into the aftermath of hatred and destruction . . . but it’s never too late to intercede.
How we respond today will impact the children of Rwanda more than anything else. It’s about the children and the future of Africa, not about the past.
We must help the children.
This passage is adapted from Noel Brewer Yeatts’ book Awake: Doing a World of Good One Person at a Time.
* * *
Interested in getting involved in Rwanda? Visit worldhelp.net/Rwanda to learn how World Help is partnering with visionary men and women to cultivate a national infrastructure that grows healthier by the day.