Palm Sunday

April 13, 2014

Headline: THE KILLER: “I was like an animal”

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 2 Apr 2014 10:38 AM

Author: Katy Migiro

MBYO, Rwanda (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Frederick Kazibwemo was 25 years old when he killed nine neighbours during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

"On April 7, the day after the president’s plane crashed, the local authorities called all of the Hutu in the village for a meeting.

"They told us that the Tutsi killed the president. The mayor told us we have to kill the Tutsi. We should take their land and cows. We should take everything. Many of us Hutu were poor and the Tutsi were rich.

"We understood it to be the law because it was coming from the government.

"It was not a surprise. Before the plane crashed, they had told us that we were going to kill the Tutsi but they didn’t tell us when....

"On April 10 soldiers captured some Tutsi on the Burundian border, which is not far from here. They brought them to the village and told us to kill them. I watched but I didn’t take part.

"That day, my Tutsi neighbours came to hide in my house. There was a woman and her four children.

"The next day, some people came to my house and found them. They reported me to the authorities who called me and asked me: ‘Why are you hiding Tutsi? You are supposed to kill them.’

"I went home and I told them that I would be punished if I allowed them to stay.

"The woman said to me: ‘Even if I die, please, I beg you, let my child, Aline, survive.’

"She was the youngest, a girl aged nine. I hid her in a basket where I used to store my grain.

"I was scared but I did it because they were close neighbours.

"About 20 minutes after they left, they were killed. I heard about it and went to that place. I saw their bodies” (http://www.trust.org/item/20140402103837-orbum/?source=shem).

He went on to say how he took part in the killings of dozens of Tutsi, neighbors, people whom he personally knew. "When you are killing, you don’t feel anything. You’re like an animal. But afterwards, you wonder why did I kill those people?"  After the genocide he took the girl that he had saved to an orphanage, and she has now grown up, been married and has two children. 

"Human life is on the border between good and evil." The words belong to St. Gregory of Nyssa, and I find them very helpful. "Human life is on the border between good and evil." Every human being is made in God's image- we have an innate sense of good and evil, and a longing to hold onto the good. At the same time, the temptation to do evil is there, too. I find in my heart kindness, generosity, love, faith, altruism, forgiveness and more. But I also see inside of me selfishness, lack of faith, anger, pride, gluttony, laziness and other bad qualities. I think that what defines me as a human being are the choices that I make for better or worse. I see much the same in Frederick Kazibwemo. I see a killer and I see the man who risked his own safety to save a little girl from ethnic genocide.

The stories told in the Bible and especially the ones remembered during Holy Week, from yesterday through Pascha and Thomas Sunday, are fascinating because they so dramatically depict the struggle that takes place in each of us who stand at the border between good and evil. In yesterday's story, the resurrection of Lazaros, the disciples were afraid to go to Bethany to visit Lazaros' grave because they were concerned about safety, theirs and the Lord's. In today's story, the chief priests and scribes were upset by the showiness of his entrance into Jerusalem. On Wednesday, Judas makes the deal to betray Jesus; on Thursday the disciples fall asleep while he prays in the garden of Gethsemane. They run away when he is arrested; only two, Peter and John, attend his trial, and there Peter denies that he even knows Jesus.

Church tradition encourages us not only to read the stories but also to place ourselves in the stories. Church hymns are often set as if the singer is in the story. The singer may be the beaten up man saved by the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son who is hungry enough to eat pig's food, or the man cast out of the bridal chamber because he wore an inappropriate garment to a wedding feast. Where would we fit into the stories of Holy Week?

The daily Bible readings as prsented in the Bible guides given to all parishioners or as presented on the goarch.org website or as presented in a book of Holy Week services are essential guides to following the events in the fateul last week of the the Lord's earthly life. If you are not in church, I encourage you to follow them.

Where in the story would you fit? I could see myself in the crowd cheering his entry; I do not see myself in the mob who on Friday demanded his execution. I could see myself as Joseph of Arimathea, who was afraid to publicly identify himself as a friend of Jesus until after his death. But I could also see myself as one of the Sadducees, someone who feared Jesus' ascent to prominence because he threatened my privileged position in their society.

"Human life is on the border between good and evil." What we see this week are very real people living very real lives. We also see Jesus, The Lord, standing on the border of good and evil, making all the right choices. He teaches in the Temple. He prays at the garden of Gethsemane to not have to undergo the cross, but then he tells his Father, "Not my will, but thy will be done." He prays for his executioners. In doing so, he leads us into a richer existence with the promise of everlasting life. Jesus does not take the suffering out of human life, but he gives us the means to endure and overcome our suffering.