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Rwanda Today

We come to a room with 14 windows, each displaying an enlarged photograph of a dead child, beneath which is a plaque with a short biography. There is Fabrice Cyemezo (Age: 15 months. Favorite food: Rice with milk. Favorite animal: Cat. Enjoyed: Making gestures. Favorite word: Auntie. Killed at: Muhororo Church.). And there is Francine Murengezi Ingabire (Age: 12. Favorite sport: Swimming. Favorite food: Eggs and chips. Favorite drinks: Milk and Fanta. Best friend: Her elder sister Claudette. Cause of death: Hacked by machete.). Jean-Claude quietly studies each one, for a long time. Then we walk outside, passing an abstract sculpture of a child with the inscription i did not make myself an orphan.

Afterward we sit silently on a bench, looking down at the capital. Nothing in view now—not the neat rows of houses, not their green gardens illuminated by the noon sun—recalls the photographs in which fires burn on streets littered with the ruin and refuse of life and frightened dogs gnaw on severed limbs.

Our first guide, Harriet, strides over and begins talking to Jean-Claude in Kinyarwanda. She is a tall, striking young woman with the slim body and symmetrical features of a model, but there is something odd and empty about her expression. She rolls her eyes and asks Jean-Claude questions in an aggressive, suspicious tone. When she walks away, Innocent, our driver, translates: she said that many Hutu boys pretend to be genocide orphans to get money from foreigners, and she demanded that Jean-Claude give his parents' names in order to document their deaths.

When Harriet returns, she denies having said such things and reproaches Innocent in Kinyarwanda for betraying her to the muzungu. The other staff surround Jean-Claude, trying to comfort him. One of the male staff members orders Harriet to apologize.

She looks up and away, brushes her hair back, and then stares defiantly at Jean-Claude. He studies the ground, his face sullen and tear-stained. Then, suddenly, they hug, and when they separate, I see that both of their expressions have altered. During my time in the country, many Rwandans have told me that it is only their Christian faith in the Passion—in Jesus's forgiveness of his torturers and the redemption of that forgiveness—that allows them to heal from the genocide. But Franco Kanimba, of the center, explains it differently. "It's not forgiveness, it's résignation," he says, pronouncing resignation as a French word. "What can we do, but try to live together?"


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