This-coming Tuesday – January 7, 2014 – Rwandans will launch a Memorial Center in Kigali to commemorate the 20th year passing since the life-shattering genocide. Complete with the lighting of the torch of KWIBUKA (the remembrance torch), survivors will gather with country leaders, members of the media, members of Ibuka (Rwanda's organization for survivors), friends, and fellow country-people to remember what was surely "one of the world's worst massacres" (quoted in this article). The ceremony itself is called "KWIBUKA 20" – that is "remembering for the 20th time." ((You can read more about Tuesday's ceremony here. You can read more about the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 here – but please be cautioned as this was one of the most profound displays of human darkness.))
One of the myriad things I've learned from listening deeply and carefully to the genocide for a mere 1 year now is that while my life presses on, people in Rwanda live with a "normal" that involves memories of a trauma so profound that they have to detach themselves from it just to survive.
Many don't experience relief. Many do, against all odds. But everyone who survived it has at least one thing in common: they remember. And, unlike this ceremony's name suggests, this is far more than the 20th time.
But thank God, beautiful things are happening in Rwanda. Nationals are stepping up and committing their resources, time, and lives to giving voice to the memories and paths of healing to survivors. It's amazing how much power the act of bearing witness to trauma has on survivors. (For two great books on this concept, see Judith Herman's Trauma and Recovery and Diane Langberg's Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse).
The concept of helping trauma survivors can be overwhelming. A common question I've asked myself on my own journey is, "How can someone like me make any difference? This feels too big." There are lots of good answers to this question, but one way to start is remembering that the path to healing is a long jagged line in the same direction and every seemingly-small step matters.
What is one small step you could take this month to actively love someone who has survived trauma?