Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Forgiveness


Notre Dame de Namur Sister Genevieve Uwamariya, a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda, told the synod that her life was changed through the work of a Catholic women's group called the Ladies of Divine Mercy.


I am a survivor of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda 1994.

A large part of my family was killed while in our parish church. The sight of this building used to fill me with horror and turned my stomach, just like the encounter with the prisoners filled me with disgust and rage.

It is in this mental state that something happened that would change my life and my relationships.

On August 27th 1997 at 1 p.m., a group from the Catholic association of the “Ladies of Divine Mercy” led me to two prisons in the region of Kibuye, my birthplace. They went to prepare the prisoners for the Jubilee of 2000. They said: “If you have killed, you commit yourself to ask for forgiveness from the surviving victim, that way you can help him free himself of the burden/weight of vengeance, hatred and rancor. If you are a victim, you commit yourself to offer forgiveness to those who harmed you and thus you free them from the weight of their crime and the evil that is in them.”

This message had an unexpected effect for me and in me....

After that, one of the prisoners rose in tears, fell to his knees before me, loudly begging: “Mercy”. I was petrified in recognizing a family friend who had grown and shared everything with us.

He admitted having killed my father and told me the details of the death of my family. A feeling of pity and compassion invaded me: I picked him up, embraced him and told him in a tearful voice: “You are and always will be my brother”.

Then I felt a huge weight lift away from me... I had found internal peace and I thanked the person I was holding in my arms.

To my great surprise, I heard him cry out: “Justice can do its work and condemn me to death, now I am free!”

I also wanted to cry out to who wanted to hear: “Come see what freed me, you too can find internal peace”.

From that moment on, my mission was to travel kilometers to bring mail to the prisoners asking for forgiveness from the survivors. Thus 500 letters were distributed; and I brought back mail with the answers of the survivors to the prisoners who had become my friends and my brothers... This allowed for meetings between the executioners and the victims....

From this experience, I deduce that reconciliation is not so much wanting to bring together two persons or two groups in conflict. It is rather the re-establishment of each in love and allowing internal healing which leads to mutual liberation.

And here is where the importance of the Church lies in our countries, since her mission is to offer the Word: a word that heals, liberates and reconciles.

7 comments:

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

All I can say is, "wow". This is very moving.

JARay said...

That is an utterly stunning, wonderful story. Thank you Father.
I have never been in such a situation and I hope that I never will be but I do wonder if I could be as forgiving? I hope to God that I could be.
JARay

alban said...

Truly words most powerful. As Shakespeare, so eloquently wrote:

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes". What strikes me are the words: "It blesseth him that gives..."

mum6kids said...

Stunning. God bless her and all the survivors.
Have you read the books by Immaculee Illibigiza (sp?)?

Bill of L.A. said...

I recently watched a short video on YouTube regarding the Marian apparitions of Kibeho, Rwanda. One of the visionaries was interviewed, and her simplicity and humility were very moving.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I HAVE RECEIVED SOME RATHER STRANGE COMMENTS ON THIS POST

PLEASE EXPLAIN TOM & FR JOSEPH

Sr Laura said...

To read Sr. Geneviève's testimony is one thing, and to know the woman behind is is exponentially more awesome. She may very well be the most free person I've ever met, and God give us the grace to put forgiveness and reconciliation into action in our own lives.

*Just a note: Sister Geneviève is of the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur, not Notre-Dame de Namur.