I’ve been reading a very interesting book entitled The Bishop of Rwanda this past week. I’ve been very interested in the genocide in Rwanda for a few years now. Honestly, I didn’t know it even happened back in ’94 because I was like 11 and world issues just weren’t that important to me then (not to mention it wasn’t covered on our news either!). But, when I became aware of what happened about 8yrs ago, I wanted to understand more. This book has been utterly fascinating and it’s got me thinking about a variety of things.
If you’re not familiar with what happened in Rwanda in May-June 1994, here’s a brief (very brief) idea: Basically, since about the ’60’s, there had been propoganda and inner workings within the country to persecute a people group known as the Tutsis. Finally, in the early ’90’s, the Rwandan government started pushing for a complete genocide. After so many years of basically brain-washing the people into thinking the Tutsis were “cockroaches” and the Hutus were god-like, this was surprisingly easy to accomplish. The President of Rwanda was assassinated and that very evening, the genocide began. For a little over a month (almost two months), the people of Rwanda went crazy and began murdering in viscious, disgusting ways their friends, neighbors, family members, and complete strangers. About a million and a half Tutsis (and some Hutus) were murdered in these very short weeks. The killing continued until approximately 1997 – ambushes on the roads, inside refugee camps in countries like Uganda, etc. Now, almost 20 years later, the country is still healing.
This book is written from a Catholic perspective, but it’s still been quite interesting to read. The author, John Rucyahana, has been working for years inside the country to help restore peace and encourage forgiveness. He explains in detail how this all began and why, what happened during the genocide, and then the repercussions afterwards.
I’ve been reading this book almost exclusively since Friday and yesterday on the way to church, for some reason, it just hit me. We were listening to some music and a version of “How Great Thou Art” came on and I just started sobbing in the car [my poor husband… I couldn’t compose myself to tell him what was going on and he still hasn’t asked!]. All these images of mutilated humans came into my view and then I pictured Christ on the cross. He knew all this was going to happen. He saw it all while He was dying – for those very sins. And I started wondering, “Why do I not have more anger about all this? How is it possible that I can read this book and not think, ‘Justice needs to have been swifter – better!’ Why am I so at peace about all this? This should be rocking my world, making me angry, sick to my stomach, vengeful. But, it’s not. Why am I okay about all this?”
And I realized: “Vengeance is mine. I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Heb. 10:30)
I started getting this mental picture of God that is portrayed in the book of Daniel chapter 7. God Almighty enters as JUDGE of the universe. I think I’ve written about this before on this blog, but I just love the image there in v. 9-10.
I watched as thrones were put in place and the Ancient One sat down to judge. His clothing was as white as snow, his hair like whitest wool. He sat on a fiery throne with wheels of blazing fire, and a river of fire flowed from his presence. Millions of angels ministered to him, and a hundred million stood to attend him. Then the court began its session, and the books were opened.
In the car yesterday, I realized – this is why I’m not angry, worried, or bothered by what happened in Rwanda. Okay, yes, I’m bothered, but it’s not to where I’m just so angry at this world and wondering where was God and how could He make this happen?!! No, it’s not like that! We live in an evil world. Satan is prince of this world – what do we expect? Sin reigns on this earth. For now. But, God was not absent. If He had been absent, then the number of Tutsis who survived and returned to Rwanda after the genocide would not be more than the number who were killed. If He had been absent, then there would not be amazing stories of survival and heroism. If He had not been present, forgiveness today would not be possible.
He was with the moms whose bellies were cut open. He held them as they watched their unborn children be ripped from their wombs and torn apart before their eyes before they were murdered themselves. He cried with the husbands as they watched their children murdered. He covered the eyes of the young girls who were raped repeatedly with machetes and then left to die. He hid with the ones who survived around corpses, hiding from attackers. He went with the people who were buried alive with tree trunks and rocks. He cried from the heavens.
He agonized on the cross for these very sins.
No, He is not blind. He is not absent.
Yes, He will judge.
So many are not getting the justice we think they deserve here on earth. Justice that should’ve been handed down swiftly and mercilessly years ago is still in the process today. This isn’t right by any standard. However, this earth – justice here – is not the end all. The Ancient One will judge. Those deeds are recorded in His book and one day, that book will be opened and they will have no where to run, no where to hide, no one to blame. Every name, every atrocity, every crime against humanity has been recorded meticulously.
God has taken note and He does not forget.
This knowledge, and this alone, makes atrocities like the genocide in Rwanda bearable. If there was no ultimate Judge, if there would be no final consequences, then yes, we would have reason to be upset and vengeful. But knowing that God will take care of it all, makes life bearable and forgiveness possible.
This applies to even the most “trivial” of issues we have in every-day life. The person that wrongs us. The one who steals from us. The injustices thrown at us from every direction. We can deal with these things and forgive these people because we have the full assurance that God is on His throne and He will take care of it all. As much as it depends on us, we are to live peaceably with everyone (Rom. 12:18). The rest is not up to us. It’s up to the Ancient One.
And that’s okay with me.