Horrors of Rwandan genocide to be shared by survivor Christine Uwase in Cannington


Christine Uwase.
Christine Uwase.

CHRISTINE Uwase has forgiven the people who killed her parents in front of her when she was four-years-old.

Now 26, the horrors of the Rwandan 100-day genocide against the Tutsi’s remain fresh in her mind, but through child sponsorship and education, she has paid it forward, becoming a child protection worker for refugees and planning a future in Rwandan politics.

Ms Uwase went to live with her aunt in 1994, after the killings at the hands of Hutu’s tore through the landlocked African country leaving her an orphan.

“Although Rwanda has many beautiful things to talk about, in the 1994 genocide against (the) Tutsi, people were killed, people were tortured and I found myself being tortured and my parents were killed,” she said.

“We found ourselves living in a very difficult time where I stayed with my single aunty and grandmother with nine other orphans.

“Life became so difficult for my aunt; it was hard for us as a family because she didn’t have a chance to go to school because before 1994 people didn’t have equal access to education, especially Tutsi.”

Ms Uwase’s fortune changed after she was selected as a sponsor child with Compassion International, a program that sponsors 1.7 million children in 20 countries.

“I gained hope again. In poverty you feel so small and ignored if you have something to say, you feel a rain of sadness falling on you and find yourself crying for no reason,” she said.

“The Compassion project gave us food, we got rations and blankets and Christmas gifts from our sponsors… then you could look to the next day you knew it would come.”

Ms Uwase said she shared her fortune among her family and neighbours.

After high school, Ms Uwase was selected among the one per cent of sponsor children to attend university, where she studied political science through a leadership program.

“For now our country has a strong leadership, they have equal access and equal opportunity,” she said.

“I dream that one day I will be among the political leaders who are making changes in our country so I can be among the decision makers. One day I will step forward to help my country and our government.”

For now, she remains in child protection, working with young people from neighbouring Burundi, where civil unrest has displaced 50,000 people.

“I work with unaccompanied children to help them to grow up and make sure they go to school to reduce their risk,” she said.

“Every day children become more vulnerable.”

Relationship manager at Compassion in WA Rodney Olsen said sponsorship helped people live fulfilling lives.

“We can see that Christine had that potential, whether she was sponsored or not, but only because she was sponsored that potential was unlocked,” he said.

“When someone is sponsoring they are sponsoring a young child and unlocking that potential. It might just be someone who lives an ordinary life but in Australia we have that opportunity; in those countries they just don’t.”

Ms Uwase will share her story at The Rocks Church in Cannington Sunday June 26.

Entry is free and is supper provided. Call 9240 1505 for more information.

Over the course of 100 days from April 6 to July 16 1994, the Hutus slaughtered an estimated 800,000-1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the Rwandan genocide.

– During this period more than six men, women and children were murdered every minute of every day.

– There are between 300,000 to 400,000 survivors of the genocide.

– Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 100 days of genocide.

– Up to 20,000 children were born to women as a result of rape.

– More than 67 per cent of women who were raped in 1994 during the genocide were infected with HIV and AIDS.

– There are 10 times as many widows than widowers – almost 50,000 widows of the genocide.

– 75,000 survivors were orphaned as a result of the genocide.

– More than half the children stopped their schooling because of poverty.

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