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Rwandan Genocide: History and World Vision’s work toward reconciliation

Fifteen years after the tragedy, World Vision remains committed to promoting peace and healing across this African nation.

June 2009



The 1994 Rwandan Genocide forever impacted a generation of children, including 16-year-old Diane, who lost her parents. In the years since the genocide, World Vision has focused on bringing peace, healing, and reconciliation to this country.
The 1994 Rwandan Genocide forever impacted a generation of children, including 16-year-old Diane, who lost her parents. In the years since the genocide, World Vision has focused on bringing peace, healing, and reconciliation to this country.
Photo ©2009 Albert Yu/World Vision

Rwanda is a small, green, hilly country that sits in East-Central Africa with a population of nearly 9.5 million people. It is the most densely populated country in Africa and consists of three people groups: Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa. Initially these three groups were social types based on the wealth and activity of each. Tutsis were known as cattle keepers, Hutus as farmers, and Twa as hunters.

In 1926, Belgians colonized the country, began referring to the Tutsis, Hutus, and Twas as ‘ethnic’ groups, and resettled many Tutsis. Since that time, Rwandans were divided across those ethnic lines.

A history of violence

The injustice, bloodshed, and violence toward Tutsis started in eastern Rwanda’s Bugesera district in the 1950s, continued until the 1970s, and started up again in the early 1990s, leading up to the genocide in April 1994.

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Sponsor a child in Rwanda. Your love and support will provide for basic needs and help him or her grow up to be a healthy, productive adult.

Though the two majority groups, Tutsi and Hutu, lived side by side, intermarried, and spoke the same language, their old resentments produced what has become known as the cruelest genocide of modern time.

In 1994, extremist Hutu militia known as the interahamwe, along with other soldiers, slaughtered approximately 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus, using machetes, hoes, and nail-studded clubs. During the course of the 100-day genocide, the world did nothing as those caught up in the frenzy killed their neighbors and even members of their own families.

An estimated 600,000 children were orphaned by the genocide, leaving 60,000 child-headed households.

During the genocide, rape was also used as a deliberate tool of “ethnic cleansing.” The total number of women affected remains unclear, but an approximation based on the number of resulting pregnancies suggests a number ranging from 250,000 to 500,000 rapes.

The genocide dismantled the emotional stability of the country, instilled fear and mistrust among community members, and led to a sudden breakdown in the traditional social organization of the people, exposing many widows and orphans to neglect and isolation.

Every April, Rwanda commemorates the 1994 genocide victims — each year focusing on a particular theme and encouraging reconciliation.

World Vision: Bringing healing and reconciliation

Thanks to World Vision's peacebuilding efforts, many youth in Rwanda have transitioned from traumatic childhoods to hopeful futures, like Sharon, Josiane, and Albert (left to right).
Thanks to World Vision's peacebuilding efforts, many youth in Rwanda have transitioned from traumatic childhoods to hopeful futures, like Sharon, Josiane, and Albert (left to right).
Photo ©2009 Albert Yu/World Vision
World Vision began working in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, integrating healing, peacebuilding, and reconciliation into all its development programs. Believing that reconciliation is a prerequisite to the development process, World Vision supports community initiatives that help the emotional health of people affected by war and genocide and promote community harmony.

Staff members in Rwanda bring people together and encourage them to be proactive about their own reconciliation processes. During reconciliation workshops, genocide survivors, students, teachers, released prisoners, opinion leaders, children, and adolescents are all given forums to share their stories, learn about the power of forgiveness, and dream about the future within a safe environment.

One World Vision program is called Promotion of Reconciliation Among Youth (PRAY), which has trained 500 youth on peace and reconciliation, and more than 10,000 youths have been involved in creative art to deliver messages of tolerance, forgiveness, and reconciliation among themselves and their communities. More than 200,000 adults and young people have been impacted by their creative presentations containing powerful messages of peace and reconciliation.

World Vision also trains peer counselors, facilitates a mentorship program, staffs a drop-in center, and hosts personal development workshops — all with the aim to promote healing, peace, and reconciliation for people who were affected by the genocide. Since 1994, World Vision has impacted the lives of some 800,000 people in Rwanda.


Learn more


>> Read the story of Alice , a woman who came face to face with her attacker after the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 and eventually offered him forgiveness.

Two ways you can help

>> Sponsor a child in Rwanda. Your love and support of a child in need will provide him or her with physical, emotional, and spiritual nurture, as well as hope for a brighter future.
>> Give monthly to help provide relief and support for children affected by war and conflict around the world. Your monthly gift will help provide things like food, clean water, health care, protection, trauma counseling, and more for these vulnerable children.

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Learn more

Read the story of Alice , a woman who came face to face with her attacker after the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 and eventually offered him forgiveness.

Two ways you can help

Sponsor a child in Rwanda. Your love and support of a child in need will provide him or her with physical, emotional, and spiritual nurture, as well as hope for a brighter future.
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Give monthly to help provide relief and support for children affected by war and conflict around the world. Your monthly gift will help provide things like food, clean water, health care, protection, trauma counseling, and more for these vulnerable children.

 





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