Thursday night we watched "Beyond the Gates", a film about the Rwandan massacre. I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch one more movie about the atrocity after seeing "Hotel Rwanda" and "Sometime in April" plus the three other books I read from the library in the past year. And I really didn't want to watch a fictionalized account that was heavy on the white perspective, after seeing and reading so much from the Rwandan perspective. But I'm glad I did.
The fictionalized account was based on real people and real events, mostly from the experiences of two BBC reporters who covered the genocide, notably David Belton, who met one of only two white priests from Europe who stayed behind in Rwanda and observed them as they made sacrificial choices to try to save as many people as they could. The movie focuses really on two people, the idealistic volunteer and the older, experienced priest, both from England and running a Catholic college. Both men seem to love Rwanda and Rwandans, but each has a different kind of love. Both have faith in God, but there are differences in how they believe. Both live by a moral code, but one actually sticks to it by choice during a horrific test. One has to live with his decision for the rest of his life, while the other dies by his.
I felt a real tension as I watched the movie, the claustrophobic feeling as the gates are surrounded by bloodthirsty murderers taunting their intended prey inside. The fear and desperation felt by the people as the UN soldiers start to pull away. The panic for one young woman I got to know throughout the movie as she runs for her and her child's life. And the sadness for the people who could have made a difference but chose to leave, knowing that it would be hellish for them to live with themselves after they made their choice. And the love of a father as he makes a bold request for the children, that they be shot by UN soldiers, saving them the horrific pain of being hacked to death by the Hutus. The sincerity of the doomed Christian who tells an intimidating Hutu who was about to kill him that he feels nothing but love for him.
In 1994, I didn't watch much television nor read the paper often when we were living in Alameda, CA. I had no computer to surf. During those 100 days, I was working and preparing for a move from our apartment to Navy housing, as well as Dennis being gone for a few months while in training in New Orleans. A good friend was about to have a baby while her husband was getting tested for a possible brain tumor (it was malignant). An earthquake hit. A busy, crazy time. But I do remember reading about the UN deciding against the word "genocide" in describing what was going on in Rwanda, and wondering how that could happen, when so many people were obviously killed by people who made it no secret what they were doing and why they did it. I also recall that the US under Clinton leadership was not going to risk any more soldiers' lives for concerns not our own.
I remember struggling with that thought, but not for very long. I prayed a short prayer, not realizing how much damage machetes could do. Rwanda didn't come up in conversations, in bible studies, prayer meetings nor in church. Not that I didn't care about the world, I prayed daily for the nations of the world. I knew and supported many missionaries in Africa. I knew soldiers and their families who were involved in Panama and Desert Storm. Yet, even while living in California where everything is wide open and questioned, no one talked about the genocide.
I was very insulated--for all the "world vision" I was developing, it seems to me I was totally blind at the time.