Noel~Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Hakizimana took a deep breath and tugged on the bell rope. The swinging great bronze bell nearly pulled him off the ground. Bong…bong…He released the rope, letting the tolling bell slow to a gentle whisper. As he stared at the floor, he drifted back into memories. Screams and the clash of machetes echoed in Hakizimana’s mind.
“Peace?” he buried his head in his hands. “No, Lord, I do not have peace. How can I when the floor is stained with the blood of my brothers in you?”
His wife Irene rounded the corner, followed by their bouncing son Abiodun. “Remembering?”
“Yes.” The wind swirled around the bell, echoing ghastly voices mixed with screams, as it had been on the day of Abiodun’s birth in the midst of the slaughter. Although he was now entering primary school, time had not healed the nation’s wounds.
In the empty sanctuary, Hakizimana could imagine the congregation turning on itself. Elders slaughtering widows. A boy bludgeoning his sweetheart’s younger brother. A choir member, who had sang so beautifully about brotherly love, swinging a machete…
Irene laid both hands on her husband’s shoulder. “It’s over, Hakizimana.”
“Over?” He shook his head. “As long as this church is stained with blood, as long as the graves cry out for justice, as long as ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’ are terms of hatred and fear…it will never be over, Irene.”
“It’s not your responsibility to end this,” Irene opened her Bible to the book of Isaiah. “Remember the scriptures? For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,” She paused for a moment. “Prince of Peace. He can bring peace, Hakizimana. Our part is to forgive. ”
The great bell chimed in agreement. Hakizimana took a deep breath. “Prince of Peace.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to men
When I first considered writing a collection of Christmas stories, the third verse of ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ stuck me as poignant. Written by Longfellow during the Civil War, it speaks of a time when ‘hate is strong and mocks the song.’ From the Civil War to World War II to the current atrocities in Sudan, there are many places where peace is mocked. I chose to set this story in Rwanda because of the nature of the 1994 genocide. There, neighbors turned on neighbors, and even churches were not sanctuaries. Left to Tell, by Immaculée Ilibagiza, served as an inspiration for this story.
As a final note, I wish to comment on the names in this story. ‘Irene’ was taken from a six-year old girl on a list of genocide victims. ‘Abiodun’ means ‘born during war.’ And Hakizimana means ‘God saves.’