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Why.

October 20, 2011

I’m currently enrolled in a class called “Honors Freshman Exploration.” It’s not by choice. There are many other things I’d rather be doing– Playing oboe on a unicycle comes readily to mind– but I have to be there anyways. Still, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” Can I get an amen?

For this class, we’re required to attend two films that have been chosen specifically by the honors college and write a commentary on them of a paragraph or two. Tonight, I saw the movie, Beyond the Gates; two paragraphs is in no way sufficient for that experience. I think, at least in a small way, this film changed me, and that doesn’t happen often.

The movie is about the conflict between the Hutu and the Tutsi. This is, of course, the conflict that led to the Hutu’s genocide against the Tutsi. Based on a true story, the movie chronicles the story of a small school that became a refuge for Tutsi because it housed a number of UN soldiers.

This fundamental conflict leads to other personal conflicts in the lives of the main characters, and this is what gives the movie its real strength.

Captain Delon is the officer in charge of the UN force. Despite the absolute authority he has over his own soldiers, he is still completely under the authority of the UN Security Council, and they tell him to stand by, not intervening; they tell him to just watch the massacre happening all around him; they tell him to do nothing even when 10 UN soldiers are killed. Captain Delon struggles with a conflict of responsibility. As a soldier he can’t go against his orders, but as a human, he can’t let this genocide continue.

Joe, the teacher at the school feels that he needs to do something, anything to stop the madness all around him, but he’s utterly powerless. Everything he tries to do to help ends up not being useful and when he has an opportunity to take a stand, to at least share the in the Tutsi burden, he can’t even bring himself to do that.

Father Christopher, a Catholic priest is depicted in the movie as being devoted to his religion to the point of impracticality. Yet in the face of the ruthless killings, even he begins to doubt his god.

How do we respond to this? How can I deal with something that even witnessing through the distant lens of a movie based on a true story brings me to tears? As much as I seem to have it all together, I am only one catastrophe away from being just as conflicted as these people in this movie. I have no reason for pride.

We weren’t meant for this world. All was once perfect, and now it isn’t. Humanity screwed up royally, and now we have to live with the consequence by keeping on with the screwing up.

I can’t answer the question, “Why does God let these things like this happen?” but He is in control. We don’t have catastrophes like this genocide every day solely by God’s grace.

I don’t know what we could have done for the Rwandan genocide, but I do know we could have done more. I don’t know what we can do to prevent something like this from happening again, but I do know that it must be done.

There is one thing I do know. This life is not the end of the story. We weren’t made for this world we now have, and so God will make us a new world. Instead of being in a world we don’t belong, a world will belong to us.

Terrible things may happen in this life, but there is still God. God still is; He still declares, “I am.” We might do horrible things in this life, but God still loves us. God still sent His Son. Christ on the cross paid the price for all of our sins. He bore a burden so heavy it covers even the sins of the world’s murderers and rapists. He bore even the sins of those involved in genocide.

To the survivors of the genocide and to those who were involved in the killing; to the UN soldiers forced to stand by and watch and the people who hid, horrified at the acts their countrymen were committing; to everyone, I offer the same phrase: “I love you.” But I can only do so because God loves me; because God loves you.

1994. April-July

6 Tutsi killed every minute
75,000 orphans
800,000 dead
20% of Rwanda’s population dead

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