Reconciliation lived out in Rwanda

John shared, “I was one of those who perpetrated. It really started in 1993. The government had taught us that there was a very bad

listening to stories

problem and the problem was the Tutsis. Schools taught us that the Tutsis were bad for the society. This divided people. So we killed them. When the RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) took over they taught us how to confess what we did. They said there is to be no revenge killing. The government told us that if we confess we will be forgiven. I spent 9 years in prison. It was not easy to meet family members of the people we killed and confess to the violence we had done. From prison we wrote letters to those families. There was a fear of revenge. Today most killers and victims are living peacefully. We have formed cooperatives and every family contributes to it.”

John’s (names in this story are changed) was one of several Rwandese who shared their story when we visited the village of Mbyo, about 13 miles from Kigali. This is a reconciliation village started by Prison Fellowship Rwanda (PFR) as one of their efforts for reconciliation.  This brand new village has 55 homes and about 300 people. The houses are all the same, giving dignity to all and preference to none.  All the residents are either perpetrators or victims of the genocide or Rwandese who recently who moved back from Congo fleeing retribution there.

Grace shared her story. “They killed my parents. When they were killing I hid in the toilet [probably septic tank] to survive. The RPF found me. I struggled a lot for a long time. I had a bad life. Later killers confessed and were released. Pastor Deo and others were key in helping me. Both sides were fearful, were the killers coming again. There was true confession from the killers. Forgiveness is very hard. Early on [after the genocide’ there was no housing so I slept outside. The killers were making bricks for houses. Today we are three groups of people in this village: killers, victims and those who returned from Congo. True reconciliation is a fact here. Today M is my neighbor. I would trust him to watch my child and he trusts me to watch his.”

“Brent had a cattle farm and we lived close to each other.” shared James. “ I got cattle from him. Then the radio said we should kill the Tutsis. I went and killed 6 people in Brent’s family, including him. I destroyed their house. When I was in prison I repented to one of the pastors who preached to us. Brent’s other family granted forgiveness and today we are living together. We could leave prison if we confessed, truly confessed. I was very sad. I only wanted to die. I did not understand I could be forgiven. It was only because of the Word that I confessed. “

kids welcoming Cindy with a hug. We were all welcomed with hugs! Precious!

We also visited a reconciliation school in the village. In this school the children of the victims and perpetrators go to class together. PFR is slowly expanding the school to include all primary grades.

I listen to these stories and others and go, “wow, that is the Gospel. That ONLY takes place because of the Gospel.” Thank you Lord for Prison Fellowship, their vision, their commitment to reconciliation, their pastors and teachers. Thank you Lord for those who have partnered with PFR to build this village. Thank you Lord for the work of the Holy Spirit in individual lives.

See also: Reconciliation Villages Making Possible the Impossible

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