I made a little sort of a joke with the title of this post, but it’s truly a serious question. It’s just that, it’s such a terrible and gruesome topic, that I wanted to clarify it a little bit with humour. I hope I succeeded.
I decided to be a journalist very young, and entered college when I was 17 years old. My decision was based on a multitude of things — I loved reading and writing, I communicate very well, I was complimented by my history teacher (another post) and I was inspired.
I was inspired by the photos taken by Sebastião Salgado during Rwanda’s civil war, in 1994. He is maybe the greatest photographer we have, and registered the barbarism of the war in excruciating detail. I was 15-16 when I first saw the pictures, and I never knew there could be such an amount of violence, terror and suffering under the sky.
Sure, I live in a violent city and I’ve seen war pictures before, but that war was different. It was brutal. People didn’t use bullets and fire guns. Actually, to die by a bullet was pure grace. They used machetes, long knifes, like in butchering. They made cruel jokes while killing, torturing, raping, hunting other human beings.
For example, I remember that the war was between tribes, the hutus, (watusis) and tutsis, as far as I can remember. The people of one tribe was taller than the other people, so the shorter tribe used to shorten their legs using long knifes — so that they weren’t taller anymore. And this was just one of the many cruelties — some of them completely unnecessary (are there necessary cruelties?) — committed in that terrible war.
I know any war is terrible, but that one opened my eyes to how low human beings could go. It was the closest vision I could have of true hell.
I found some pictures online. But there is one which impressed me forever, and I couldn’t find it. It was a picture taken from a cliff, showing a sort of beach (as far as I can remeber) with bodies on the sand. The picture was shocking for me because nature remained impassive (so I thought) despite the carnificine.
Here are the pictures I could retrieve (warning: they’re strong!!) — I think they’re all from Sebastião Salgado:
Many people were killed in churches, because they thought the killers would respect the sacred ground.
It was an “ethnic cleanse”, the hutus wanted to exterminate the tutsis. More than 800.000 people died.
After seeing the picures and reading the article in a Brazilian magazine, I was in another state of mind. In another state of soul that my naive, but curious soul have never been before. It was like if a part of me was transported to that hell too, together with the victims, the killers, Sebastião Salgado and the many other brave souls who went to Rwanda when everyone wanted to run away from it — to tell the world what was going on.
This kind of thing shows us how fragile our humanity is. When so much horror happens, where is the ONU, where is the power of our ideologies and good principles?
I think my faith was shaken. And I decided that I wanted to be like Sebastião Salgado, and become a war reporter, to tell the world that we should mobilize, unite our forces so that this kind of terror never happen again on this beautiful Earth.
Yes. I was naive. I still am.
But I never had the guts to go to war. I hate wars and am afraid of them. I have my share of violence where I live. But I’ve never truly forgiven myself for being what I used to call a “coward”, and not fulfilling my mission towards journalism and towards humanity itself.
Fastforwarding to 2015. A couple of days ago. I was writing a post about the Choose Love Foundation and discovered they have a beautiful work with survivors in Rwanda. Their aim is to help them go to college and pay for their studies.
I’ll copy their story here:
“In 1994 over 1,000,000 Rwandan Tutsi’s were killed by their neighboring Hutus within 100 days. Over 1,000,000 children were orphaned in one of the world’s worst tragedies in history.
In December of 2012 JT Lewis lost his little brother, Jesse Lewis in the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. Reeling from this personal tragedy he had the opportunity to Skype with orphan genocide survivors who had heard about the shooting and wanted to reach out to JT. During the Skype call they told him that they were so sorry about what had happened to his brother and they shared their personal experiences of heartbreak where they watched many of their family members die. They told JT that through gratitude, forgiveness and compassion they have healed and are now leading lives filled with hope and joy. This started JT on his own healing journey and inspired him to give back to the people from around the globe that had reached out to him in love.
Knowing that these now young adults had no hope of going to college, JT set out to raise money to make their dreams come true. Several months after he began fundraising he was able to Skype back to the same group and announce that he had raised enough money to send one of them to college for a year. He has made the personal commitment to send this person to college for the remaining 3 years and hopes to do more.”
Of course I donated some money to them! Of course I’m grateful for having the opportunity to do so, 17 years later, to help this people a little bit. But I know that it’s important, if not for them, for me!
Maybe, if I had been a war reporter, I could have made so much more, but I’ll never know. For now, I’m grateful for this channel — blessed be — to help. To make a difference.
It was what I wanted in the first place anyway. I think I never wanted to go to war. I never wanted to be a war reporter-photographer-martir-hero. I was just one human being wanting to help other human beings.
I think so many times we feel frustrated because our plans didn’t work out the way we hoped they would. We blame ourselves and others, but, I think that if the intention is right, life will find a way.
In that renewed state of mind, I pray for Rwanda, certain that this beautiful country will emerge as a symbol of reconciliaton and lasting peace.
PS: Oh, and if you want to donate too, click here. Thank you very much! ❤