Rwanda: UR-Huye Students Share Lessons Learned From Catholic Parish-Turned Genocide Memorial

Some 50 students from University of Rwanda-Huye campus on June 11 visited Ntarama Genocide Memorial in Bugesera where they toured the different sections of what used to be a place of worship.

The former Catholic parish was the scene of horrendous crimes during the Genocide against the Tutsi. It hosts the remains of thousands who lost their lives at the site and its environs.

Ntarama is home to more than 5,000 remains of Genocide victims.

Some of them were killed at the altar, in the priests' quarters, among other sacred places of the former church.

Interahamwe militia and then government forces used grenades and crude weapons like machetes to kill Tutsi who had crammed inside the church in desperate search for safety.

UR students pay tribute to the victims whose remains are interred at the memorial. Photos: Courtesy.

There is also a section for child victims, a structure behind the main building that used to serve as a place for Confirmation, administering Holly Communion, as well as Sunday school.

Ntarama is one of the six Genocide memorials in Rwanda that contain human remains, clothing, and artifacts belonging to those who were killed at the site.

Different University of Rwanda's campuses organise annual student visits to Genocide memorial centres, with view to educating young generations about the country's history and shaping them into the kind of citizens and leaders that Rwanda needs.

Thérésie Nyirahabimana, director of student welfare at UR-Huye, said, "We do this every year as part of efforts to nurture responsible future leaders, students and youth in general need to understand where we are coming from as a nation."

The New Times' LEON PIERRE MUHIRE spoke to some of the students who visited the memorial centre and they shared their thoughts and lessons learned from the sobering visit.

Sabine Akimana, IT student

Today was another reminder that the Genocide against the Tutsi had been planned for a long time, those who claim that that was not the case or that no genocide took place are deliberately distorting history, and it's our role as the youth to push back against such dangerous ideologues. That's my biggest homework coming from Ntarama. We also need to fully embrace our national identity of Ndi Umunyarwanda.

Lionel Ndizeye

To see a place which was holy, a temple, and then see the kind of atrocities that were committed there is beyond understanding. Yet, this is our history, however bitter it is. I learnt a lot about my country, like how the Genocide was prepared and the savagery with which it was executed. On a brighter note, I also learnt how the RPF-Inkotanyi stopped the massacres.

Aliane Umulisa

One of the things I learnt is that it is important that we become patriotic citizens. I have a duty to stand up to those who deny the Genocide against the Tutsi. Everyone can see that it happened, in the most brutal way possible. There is evidence. In Ntarama, there is an awful lot of it.

Venuste Ngabonziza, a year 3 student in Midwifery

I feel so grateful to the (RPF) Inkotanyi, they sacrificed their own lives so Rwanda can be saved and rise again. I learn heroism from them. We are fortunate as youth to have them, they are our role models; we can look up to them and be inspired to do the right things because we have the responsibility to protect what they have built. Rwanda has no place for genocide ideology and those who seek to sow division.

It is our role to stop them.

Donatha Mukahigiro, a year 2 student

Ntarama is just one example of how this country suffered at the hands of genocidaires. It teaches us the sad history of this country. What makes Ntarama a bit different from most other places is the fact that Bugesera (the district where Ntarama is located) was the place where trial killings were perpetrated well before 1994. The Tutsi there were killed from 1960s and this continued through 1994.

Gerard Ndemezo, Guild president, UR-Huye Campus

Visiting a place like Ntarama is important for historical clarity. We have seen and heard people deny the Genocide against the Tutsi and it's our duty not just to call them out but to talk about our own history. You cannot do it if you don't fully understand your history. Seeing the evidence of what happened and visiting sites where innocent people were murdered, and seeing their remains and cloths is a powerful tool in the fight against genocide denial as well as hate.

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