Saturday, May 7, 2011


My oldest daughter, Sophia and I at the Nile, Uganda, 1993
I sit as a strange teller of stories. I was not in Rwan­da in 1994. However, I was next door in Uganda with Banyar­wanda friends. My memories of those days have never left.

Last year, I told some of my memo­ries. Another one came to mind a few months ago. It is one that I am ashamed did not trigger outrage in 1993. I remember, regret, and repent. I just did a Google search and am confident though my memory is true, it would be difficult to document. If I do not leave a record of my memory I strip victims of their dig­nity. Truth heals and it must be told.

One of the weapons of genocide was rape. Such brutality is not the nature of man as an image bearer of God. Such bru­tality must be nurtured with hateful my­thology. Only when man’s eyes are blind­ed by hate can one destroy the daughters of men.

Jesus cleansing the temple
One of my acts of repentance is to hold a prophetic stand. I seek out places where I can speak publicly so that I will never be silent when God’s people must speak. Thus I seek out friendships in the media. However, the history of Rwanda’s media has left me so troubled that I must seek to understand and wrestle with my motiva­tion. A few months ago, I found a must read book, The Media and the Rwanda Genocide by Allan Thompson and Kofi Annan. I picked it up to judge my motives. In the process I found a chapter on media and sexual violence written by Binaifer Nowrojee. My best summary of the chapter is that Batutsi women carried a sexual mystique that was hated. Thus the haters found justification for horrific rapes. A similar article is Why Rape Was a Key Part of Genocide in Rwanda of the Center on Law and Globalization.

Jesus feet washed (Luke 7:36-50)
As I read the chapter, I remembered an article I read in 1993 in Uganda’s independent newspaper, The Monitor. At the time, The Monitor was just getting off the ground. Sometimes its articles were cultural nonsense and gos­sip designed to sell newspapers. Sometimes these played to stereotypes. The article I remember was on the sexual prowess on the women of various Ugandan ethnic groups. It started in Uganda’s east and worked its way west. It had the tone of dorm room humor mixed with academic re­search. I suspect the author was in his twenties. As it started with the Sabei on Mount Elgon it made the case that due to Female Genital Mutilation the Sabei women had little sexual prowess. It made comments about women in vari­ous ethnic groups in Uganda. Its conclusion was about the great sexual prowess of Batutsi, Rwandan refugee women living in Uganda. It even discussed the genital anatomical details of Rwandan women compared to Ugandan women. I do not remember the author’s name or his sources, but I am confident of my memory.

In reading The Media and the Rwanda Genocide, I real­ized I had once read hate literature that seemed almost academic while in reality being pornographic. I remem­ber, regret, and repent.

Seventeen years ago, I should have been outraged and sent a letter to The Monitor editors.

Alexis Hixson and my daughter, Ruth
How do I display my repentance today? First, it is personal. My daughters are now beau­tiful young women with beautiful young Banyarwanda women as their friends. They are all daughters of men and children of God. As such they are all worthy of respect. A sin against my Banyarwanda women friends is a sin against the humanity of all. I cannot lose my empathy.

Second, history is a great teacher. A few months ago, I found a book from 1948 in a Rwanda missionary library called The New Congo by Tom Marvel. It details the story of an American traveling through Belgium’s African colonies. Like many of us when he reaches Rwanda he is stunned. He made one prophetic commentary that I can never forget. He was convinced that the colonial enterprise was leading Rwanda towards disaster. His biggest concern was that young Banyarwanda women were not receiving quality educa­tion. He predicted without Banyarwanda women being educated Rwanda’s future would be tragic. There are many reasons for Rwanda’s tragic history, but the non-literacy of many Banyarwanda women must be factored in as a significant one.

Women were the first to see Resurrected Jesus
My understanding of Rwanda pre-colonial history is that women served as the unifier's of society with great leadership capacity. With a colonial system that marginal­ized women and a post-colonial media that treated them as subjects to sexually exploit, disaster was imminent.

Thus today I cheer loudly for all Rwandan women I know who succeed as students, entrepreneurs, and lead­ers. Their dignity must be guarded. Their voices must be heard.

Last, my repentance means I must be a participant and advocate for all academic and business enterprises in my influence who give extra opportunities for women. I should never assume “girls are not good at math and sci­ence,” or “business and politics is too rough.”

My delayed outrage is delayed repentance. May my voice for Banyarwanda women be simply one of many that say, “Never again.”

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