As we commemorate the infamous Genocide that marked our country in 1994, we should continue to pray for the souls of the Genocide-victims.
The survivors should be encouraged to keep on moving because the suffering that does not kill you makes you stronger. At the same time during the Holy Week, Christians meditate on the meaning of suffering.
Generally, suffering is one of the most common words that we use in our day to day life. In the broad sense, we apply the word suffering to any unpleasant feeling, emotion or sensation.
In order to show that it is a basic feeling in our emotional life, we use such qualifiers to it as mental, emotional, psychological, or spiritual suffering, just to mention a few.
When expressing our feelings of suffering we use such words as distress, sorrow, unhappiness, misery, affliction, woe, ill, discomfort, displeasure, disagreeableness, unpleasantness, discrimination, persecution.
The length of the list may depend on individuals, because when it comes to suffering, every man has a story to tell and his or her type of cross to bear.
And for a country like ours which has been marked by the infamous genocide, the situation becomes a laboratory of suffering.
Suffering being so central to our human experience; almost all people, depending on their point of departure, ascribe some purpose to its agony.
Psychologists look at suffering with regret for its initial disrupting nature associated with pain; but they do point out its positive side, especially in matters of its contribution to individual’s capacity to organise better his or her world and psyche.
According to them, suffering somehow equips us with the coping strategies (of fight or flight), which enable us to resist difficult times in our life. Hence the age-old maxim: “the suffering that does not kill you makes you stronger”. The Christian understanding of human suffering tells us something more.
Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris, explains suffering not only as central to human experience, but central as well to Christian mission. It is in this line that he describes the bible as ‘a great book about suffering’.
The Catholic Church teaches that suffering though not a desirable thing in itself has been given a new meaning by Jesus Christ when he chose it as the way to show his love for humanity.
His death on the cross was a clear sign that he was prepared to do all it took to save man. And when he took his last breath, Jesus struck at the roots of the evil in such a surprising way that even the eyes of the Roman centurion were opened and he declared: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15.39).
It became clear to the followers of Jesus, that his suffering was both substitutive and redemptive. This they understood not because of fear as the centurion, but through their faith.
Faith therefore provides us the prism or the vision, through which we can grasp the reality and unfolding of our daily life without being obstructed by suffering.
Through faith we can feel God’s plan, Christ’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit as part of who we are, what we enjoy and what we suffer.
This in turn influences the way we live out our life. It is only with this Christian understanding of faith that we can understand the meaning of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that his life may be manifested in our life. (2 Cor 4:8)
Needless to say, all genocide survivors should find some consolation in these words of the apostle. The Holy Week is a time the Church sets aside each year so that we can meditate on the meaning of Christ’s suffering and our own suffering.
The liturgy of this period should therefore help us to pray for the souls of all the victims of the Genocide, to console the survivors and to say Never Again with a voice which is more determined than ever before.