The horrors of the Rwanda genocide confront Prince Charles in a church where 10,000 killed

The Prince of Wales lays a wreath during his visit to the Nyamata Church Genocide Memorial. Credit: PA

The red-brick church sits on the edge of the village just along an orange, dusty track.

Outside the gardens are neat and the atmosphere is calm.

When you step inside, you start the difficult process of trying to comprehend what happened here on 13 April 1994.

On what were once pews in a place of place of prayer, there are piles of clothes from those killed here.

Tops, t-shirts, dresses, sweaters piled high along each of the dozen pews on either side of the church.

Prince Charles at the Nyamata Church memorial. Credit: PA

A few steps down to the basement room below, you are confronted with row upon row of skulls - from just some of those who lost their lives here.

This was state-sponsored mass murder and in Nyamata church 10,000 of those murders took place over just two days.

Prince Charles took in these sights this afternoon and listened, mostly in silence, as he was told how these people died.

They’d taken shelter in the church, as in Rwanda, in the violent times before the genocide, they were places of sanctuary.

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But in 1994 many churches became a killing site, as did this one in Nyamata.

The men and boys had tried to defend the church by throwing rocks and stones at their attackers - many from an army base just along the road.

But when they were killed, grenades were thrown inside the church where women, babies and children had sought safety.

After the grenades, the attackers went in with their machetes.

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What happened next is not something that is easy to write.

But the few who escaped the slaughter, mostly by playing dead, have said there was no screaming here.

“We were beyond pain”, it says in one survivor’s story on the plaques around the church.

There was “only the sound of machetes and bones.” wrote another.

None of the survivor's testimonies is easy to read.

But, as with the Holocaust, the job of each new generation is never to forget.

And those close to Prince Charles said he wanted to come to Nyamata on the first ever royal visit to Rwanda, to listen and to learn so that he can share with others what he was told here.

Charles was also shown the mass graves behind the church, where they have buried 45,000 bodies.

The message written in Kinyarwanda by Charles. Credit: ITV News

In the church, are lines of yet more coffins. They contain recently-found remains from the 1994 genocide which are now waiting for a proper burial.

The Prince of Wales left a wreath here, writing on it in Kinyarwanda: “Jinyarwandan Tuzahora twibuka inzirakarengane zazize jenoside yakorewe Abatutsi muri Mata 1994. Hora Rwanda”.

In English, it reads:  “We will always remember the innocent souls that were killed in the Genocide Against the Tutsi in April 1994. Be strong Rwanda”.