Neither Tutsi nor Hutu nor Republican nor Democrat
Last week I wrote about identity. Here’s a modern example for you in the Rwandan genocide. If you are not following Humans of New York on Instagram or Facebook, please read the Rwanda stories on that page after you finish reading this post.
In the late 1800s in Rwanda, European colonizers began to identify Rwandans by the primary identifier of Hutu or Tutsi. Over the next century, power struggles between the two groups created resentments. Rwanda was a largely Christian nation at the time, so they should have known not to make distinctions based on ethnic identity. By the 1990’s, the mainly Hutu Rwandan government began to capitalize on those resentments by painting the Tutsis as non-Christians, traitors, intent on enslaving the Hutu, and calling them “cockroaches.” The government began planning the “final solution” of the extermination of all Tutsis. The government established a radio station just to spread racist propaganda. It aired obscene jokes and music and so became very popular. On the day the genocide started, this radio station aired specific commands to the public to go out and slaughter their Tutsi neighbors and relatives. By this time, the public was so incited against the Tutsis that they gladly obeyed and went out into the streets massacring at will. Most of the one million killings were carried out with machetes over a 100-day period, so this was a particularly awful massacre.
Can you imagine such anger and hatred toward your fellow countrymen that you would torture and kill them, some killing “with glee,” even smashing babies and forcing relatives kill each other? I cannot imagine.
But I can. Because I hear the talk radio stations and I see the Facebook groups, the local protest marches, the Tweets. I see the vitriolic comments, the demonizing of the other side, the “identity” groups who only hang out with each other and read each other and don’t hear any of the concerns of the people with other identities.
Where are we headed? Into two polarized sides? Then what? Will one of those sides capture enough power that they will be able to significantly influence the thinking of the population to hate the other side? Or is that already happening?
Read this story from Emmanuel Katongole of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies:
“Across the road from the church that was bulldozed at Nyange is where students refused to separate Hutu from Tutsi in 1994. In 1997, militiamen came by night, surrounded the high school and killed the guard. These men entered a classroom and demanded that students separate themselves along ethnic lines, but the students refused, maintaining, ‘We are Rwandans.’ Frustrated, the militia indiscriminately launched an attack that killed many of them.
“They are martyrs to the new identity that bound them together in life and in death. Christian hope forges an identity where waters of baptism become thicker than ethnic blood. I hear these children saying to us Rwandans, ‘You have messed up Rwanda and we are going to get it right.’ These young children are now officially honored as Rwanda’s heroes. Indeed, we are hope-based creatures, and what we believe as our ultimate future determines how we live now.”
These students understood that we are not Hutu or Tutsi. We who are Christian are Christian and we stand for each other AND for everyone else. The students were willing to die for that. May they be our teachers and our inspiration.
“Serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:13-15.