Swords to ploughshares, Rwanda

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Machete caked with garden dirt, in Kigali, Rwanda

Swords into ploughshares is from the Book of Isaiah:

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. — Isaiah 2:3–4

I thought about Bible verse many times while in Rwanda last week, particularly when watching machetes being used for gardening. I have many garden tools and, despite living on the Guadalupe River and regularly clearing brush as part of my work on the bank, I have never needed a machete. In Rwanda, I several times watched a machete being used as a hoe or to clear an overgrown path, and reflected that it is a good general-purpose implement if other tools are lacking. However, I also remembered Immaculée Ilibagiza writing of her 1994 experience during the Rwanda genocide:

There were many voices, many killers. I could see them in my mind: my former friends and neighbors, who had always greeted me with love and kindness, moving through the house carrying spears and machetes and calling my name. “I have killed 399 cockroaches,” said one of the killers. “Immaculée will make 400. It’s a good number to kill.” (from Left to Tell, 2006)

Rwanda is essentially twenty years old – its remarkable success since 1994 being all the more impressive because of the depths from which the country has risen. Last week, the TechWomen delegation visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (in which a machete is prominently displayed as the signature weapon) and saw graveyard/memorials along the road into the mountains.  There must be few parts of Rwanda entirely free of the memories and events of 1994’s savagery.  Yet, Rwanda has indeed turned swords into ploughshares (or, machetes into hoes in their case) and gotten on with the necessary business of making things better.

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Some of my garden tools, in San Jose, California, USA

Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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