In the summer of 1994, as the frenzy of Rwanda’s 100-day genocide neared its end, a number of the Interahamwe (the pro-Hutu youth militia responsible for most of the estimated one million massacred Rwandans), crossed the boarder to hide in Congo. A few years later, these paramilitary fighters came back into Rwanda to complete their “unfinished business.” They conducted vigilante raids to kill Tutsi and claim loyalty from Hutu survivors.

In the small town of Nyange in western Rwanda, on the cold, rainy evening of March 18, 1997, shortly after dinner, but before returning to their dormitories, a number of St. Joseph’s Secondary School students gathered to study for their exams.

Suddenly, a group of Interahamwe insurgents attacked the unassuming campus. The night watchman—campus security—was executed. Immediately following his murder, 27 students were forced into a classroom and ordered to separate—Tutsis on one side, Hutu on the other. But the students refused to separate themselves.

In a courageous act of solidarity, the students refused to save their own lives by identifying the differences among them. Instead they stood in solidarity with their Tutsi friends.

Chantal Mujawamahoro—a 21-year-old Hutu was the first to lay down her life for her fellow students. Her name literally means “maiden of peace.” She bravely stood up to the attackers and proclaimed, “We do not have Hutus or Tutsis here. We are all Rwandans.”

They shot her in the head. Killing her at her desk.

One by one six more students were assassinated in front of their classmates.

Despite the impending slaughter, the young group of students remained determined to stand in unity—undivided in their identity as one.

Rather than wasting bullets, the infiltrators rounded up the surviving students and threw grenades into their classroom—the young people were left for dead. But most survived—each of them mutilated, many having lost limbs or other body parts, some left blinded.

I recently visited their campus and as I listened to their stories, as I heard their testimony of unity, I was inspired and convicted. Their bodies were broken, but they represented wholeness. My mind went to the Church. I saw in these students a totem—an image—of the body of Christ, unified and whole. And, for me, it painted a stark contrast with the disunity and brokenness I’ve witnessed and experienced—and even contributed to—in the Church.

Their disfigured and wounded bodies stand today as an indictment to the fractured body of Christ. [Christopher Heuertz, Q –]

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