20 years ago marked the terrible beginning of the Rwandan Genocide, during which almost one million people were killed as tribal Hutus rose up and slaughtered their Tutsi neighbors, friends and even family members.
Two decades later, Rwanda is a shining star of economic development in Africa, but the psychic scars of the trauma remain.
In 2012, I was able to visit Rwanda with Heifer International and bear witness to Heifer’s programs in that country. The first day, I went to the Northern Province and watched a Passing on the Gift ceremony, where recipients of a Heifer cow pass on the first-born female to another needy family.
It’s a beautiful tradition at the heart of Heifer’s ideology, made doubly poignant by the fact that many of the givers and recipients were on opposite sides of the Hutu/Tutsi divide. But Rwandans seem dedicated to rebuilding their country and repairing the terrible schism.
It was one of the most moving and inspiring ceremonies I’ve ever seen… and one I’m not sure I would ever have the spiritual capacity to emulate.