Miracles in Kibeho

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
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Trip End Aug 30, 2006


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Friday, July 28, 2006

On Wednesday and Thursday (July 26 & 27) I was at Kibeho with some of the team from Seruka, namely Alice (the Executive Secretary), Geoffrey (which I've been spelling Joffrey because I forgot about funky French pronunciation), and Grattien. We were there for an "economic forum" with local artist, agriculture, and other business associations. They were invited to the forum so that they might learn about the Civil Society Good Governance and Reconciliation (CSGR) program that IRC and SERUKA are implementing with USAID funds. Basically the goal of the forum was to get the associations to form alliances with other associations present so that they could create a joint program which they would submit to IRC and SERUKA for the competitive selection process in which only one project will get funded.

It all happened exactly as it was presented to me in the program description that I had read earlier so the forum wasn't exactly enlightening, but it was still interesting to see the program in progress. Of course most of the time I was extremely bored since I couldn't understand anything and Geoffrey was only giving me 5min. translated summaries of hour long discussions. Plus outside of the shrines there (see below) there isn't much to see and do. Kibeho is very small. And just in case I forgot that I was in a third world country I ran into small village life...my first pit latrine experience. I'll spare you the details, but luckily I just had "short business" to take care of as Geoffrey put it.

What is interesting about Kibeho which is about an hour long drive from Butare, on one of the most scenic dirt roads that I've ever been on, is that during the early 1980s there were apparitions of the Virgin Mary here to several young girls. She had appeared and forewarned the girls that terrible atrocities were to happen in Rwanda asking the people to repent and find God. Of course the war started in 1990 and culminated in the horrific 1994 genocide.

The forum was held at the conference room at the church built on the site of the apparitions. I was able to take some pictures of the shrine built to commemorate the site where the Virgin Mary appeared for the last time. At the suggestion of the very Catholic Alice, I also meet one of the women who had seen the Virgin as a young girl. Some of the young girls who had seen the Virgin were killed during the genocide and those that survived left. But, one stayed and still lives at the church. I shook her hand, but since she didn't know much French and no English we couldn't converse much.

On the way back to Kigali on Thursday afternoon, again at the request of Alice, we stopped at a nearby hill where the Marian Fathers have built a monument and small chapel. The monument in a large (about 30ft.) statue of Jesus with his arms outstretched facing the nearby hill where the Virgin appeared. It is reminiscent of the famous monument of Jesus over Rio de Janiero. The monument, I was told, was a gift from a community in Mexico. A priest and several other people were praying and they received a vision that told them to build this monument in Rwanda. It seems like a strange request from God to have given considering what else the funds could have been used for, but I guess it's nice. I tried to ask if the gift came from the community from Guadeloupe where the Virgin appeared to some Mexican girls, but the question was not understood.
On Wednesday night I met up with Patrick (the son of one of the women here at SERUKA) who is going to school at the National University in Butare. His mother had called ahead and asked him to find me a place to stay at while I was there, which caught me off guard. He told me I could stay at his uncle's house nearby. I was a little uncomfortable with the idea, considering I had never met him and feel uncomfortable anyways staying at some of my own friends homes. Plus, since I had to be up early to join the rest of the team to head back to Kibeho for the Thursday morning session I preferred that I stay nearby the hotel that everyone else was staying at. So to the disappointment of Patrick's uncle (or so I was told) I found a nice motel across the street at a good price.

The rest of that night was spent with Patrick. After we had dinner, he took me on a tour of parts of his University that I hadn't seen on Saturday when I was there for 3 hours. He showed me his room, where 12 people sleep in the size of a Stanford quad!! Then, joined with a friend of his, we went to the auditorium where they were showing a movie. We ended up seeing Jet Lee's film "From the Cradle to the Grave". Lucky for me the French dialogue was joined with English subtitles. Finally around 12:30 I was back in my room where I managed to sleep for about 5 hours until I had to be up to get ready to leave for Kibeho early in the morning.
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