"I watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect."
The paradise? Rwanda.
The devil? Genocide.
The speaker? Roméo Dallaire, force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda.
This is how he recalls those 100 fateful days in 1994 for his book Shake Hands with the Devil, published ten years ago. Many of us know his story of courage, how he protected those he was ordered to abandon, how he stood firm while others fled. Less well known is the huge price he paid because of that courage. PTSD. Attempted suicide. A million unanswered "What if…?"s. He is a man who did what he could, and it cost him dearly because it could never have been enough.
My wife and I lived in Krakow, Poland in the early '90s while Spielberg was filming Schindler's List. Here is another story of someone who did what he could where he was. Oskar Schindler's price? He died penniless in post-war Germany, one business and personal failure after another.
Those who witness great evil are changed forever. You can't walk away from tragedy and devastation unaffected. Hard places across the African continent are filled with people who have experienced such evils up close and personal, their lives forever changed as a result. Yet seeds of hope remain.
All of us at African Leadership feel called to hard places and tough issues. We approach this work soberly, of course, but also with optimism. We know that great evil has to yield to the even greater love of God who, as Bono says, "is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them."
John Walter, President
P.S. If, after all of this, you are interested in exploring what might be in store for you in a hard place, please consider joining our President's trip next January. This journey will specifically focus on what it is like to work in a place where the only thing that works well is evil. Interested? Drop me an email.