Pain and strength could be heard in her voice as Marie-Christine Williams shared how 25 years ago, at the age of 14, she witnessed the massacre of her neighbors while hiding in the bush, and continued to live in fear for the 100 days that followed.
“Genocide didn’t start in Europe with the Jews and it didn’t end in Rwanda,” were the words at the start of Marie-Christine’s presentation, “Triumph Over Darkness,” on Wednesday, June 26th. Bilingual International Assistant Services hosted the presentation, in collaboration with the Missouri History Museum, and the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center to commemorate the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture and the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide.
Marie-Christine’s story includes the betrayal of former friends, capture, and near-death. She witnessed and suffered horrible atrocities, and yet, as she shared her story, she focused on the small moments where strangers helped her. She spoke of other Tutsis on the run, who gave her the clothes off her back, after being captured and forced to remove her clothes. She stated with determination that she survived because of one Hutu, who hid and fed her as long as he could.
While there were countless moments during her presentation where the audience gasped in horror, the resounding message she shared was one of strength, forgiveness, and humanity. Marie-Christine shares her story “as a reminder of what I don’t want to ever happen to anyone else… to remind people to support each other” and to promote love above all else.
As she shared her story, Marie-Christine Williams detailed the difficulty of accepting what had happened to her and her community, of letting go of the anger she felt, and adjusting to a life where fear didn’t have to be her default. Marie-Christine Williams is a survivor, much like the clients we serve through our Survivors of Torture and War Trauma program in our Mental Health Department. Many of our clients experienced similar atrocities and are also struggling to process trauma and come to terms with their pasts. Our clients face a variety of barriers in seeking treatment, including language barriers, transportation barriers, and cultural stigma.
Some are unable to leave their homes, still living in fear of the horrors they escaped. For this reason, our Survivors program offers home-based and holistic treatment. In addition to counseling, we also provide case management, psychiatry, and legal aid, as needed. We work with survivors in the St. Louis area, whether they arrived 20 days ago or 20 years ago.
Marie-Christine closed her presentation by reminding the audience that letting go of that anger and forgiving those who harmed her was something she did for herself, and no one else. Marie-Christine found the strength to survive and forgive, and now shares her story for all those unable to share their own. Triumph Over Darkness facilitated a conversation about the atrocities that still occur today, the effects of those events that continue long past the violence ends, and the warning signs that precede such events.
For more information about Marie-Christine Williams and her story, click here.
For more info about UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture click here.
For more info about Bilingual International’s Survivors of Torture/War Trauma program, click here.