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Rwanda: Forgiveness and Redemption

Rwanda: Forgiveness and Redemption

Twenty years after the horrific genocide in Rwanda, the nation continues its efforts towards reconciliation. Read as both sides stand together in order to move on from the past  and face the future united.

Rwanda: Forgiveness and Redemption

Dominique_Cansilde_CF017530_©Pieter Hugo_courtesy Creative Court-2

Dominique  (Left): “The day I thought of asking pardon, I felt unburdened and relieved. I had lost my humanity because of the crime I committed, but now I am like any human being.”

Cansilde  (Right): “After I was chased from my village and Dominique and others looted it, I became homeless and insane. Later, when he asked my pardon, I said: ‘I have nothing to feed my children. Are you going to help raise my children? Are you going to build a house for them?’ The next week, Dominique came with some survivors and former prisoners who perpetrated genocide … They built my family a house. Since then, I have started to feel better. I was like a dry stick; now I feel peaceful in my heart, and I share this peace with my neighbours.”

François_Epiphanie_CF018449_©Pieter Hugo_courtesy Creative Court-2

François  (Left): “Because of the genocide, I participated in the killing of the son of this woman. We are now members of the same group of unity and reconciliation. We share in everything; if she needs some water to drink, I fetch some for her. There is no suspicion between us.”

Epiphanie (Right): “He killed my child, then he came to ask me pardon. I granted it to him because he did not do it by himself – he was haunted by the devil. I was pleased by the way he testified to the crime instead of keeping it in hiding, because it hurts if someone keeps hiding a crime he committed against you. Before, when I had not yet granted him pardon, he could not come close to me. I treated him like my enemy. But now, I would rather treat him like my own child.”

Cesarie_Deogratias_CF017784_©Pieter Hugo_courtesy Creative Court-2

Deogratias (Right): “When I was still in jail, President Kagame stated that the prisoners who would plead guilty and ask pardon would be released. I was among the first to do this. Once I was outside, it was also necessary to ask pardon to the victim. Mother Mukabutera Caesarea could not have known I was involved in the killings of her children, but I told her what happened. When she granted me pardon, all the things in my heart that had made her look at me like a wicked man faded away.”

Cesarie (Left): “Many among us had experienced the evils of war many times, and I was asking myself what I was created for. The internal voice used to tell me, ‘It is not fair to avenge your beloved one.’ It took time, but in the end we realised that we are all Rwandans.”

Jean Pierre_Vivianne CF017666_©Pieter Hugo_courtesy Creative Court-2

Jean Pierre  (Left): “My conscience was not quiet, and when I would see her I was very ashamed. After being trained about unity and reconciliation, I went to her house and asked for forgiveness. Then I shook her hand. So far, we are on good terms.”

Viviane (Right): “He killed my father and three brothers. He did these killings with other people, but he came alone to me and asked for pardon. He and a group of other offenders who had been in prison helped me build a house with a covered roof. I was afraid of him – now I have granted him pardon, things have become normal, and in my mind I feel clear.”

François_Christophe_CF017357_©Pieter Hugo_courtesy Creative Court-2

François  (Left):  “I asked him for forgiveness because his brother was killed in my presence. He asked why I pleaded guilty, and I replied I did it as someone who witnessed this crime but who was unable to save anybody. It was the order from authorities. I let him know who the killers were and the killers asked him for pardon.”

Christophe (Right): “Sometimes justice does not give someone a satisfactory answer – cases are subject to corruption. But when it comes to forgiveness willingly granted, one is satisfied once and for all. When someone is full of anger, he can lose his mind. But when I granted forgiveness, I felt my mind at rest.”

Beatrice_Laurent_CF018429_©Pieter Hugo_courtesy Creative Court-2

Laurent (Right): “I participated in destroying her house because we took the owner for dead. The houses that remained without owners – we thought it was better to destroy them to get firewood. Her forgiveness proved to me she is a person with a pure heart. Many people in the same situation became enemies while they are brothers and sisters. Although I damaged her property we remained united as before; we stayed brother and sister even though I offended her.”

Beatrice (Left): “If I am not stubborn, life moves forward. When someone comes close to you without hatred, although horrible things happened, you welcome him and grant what he is looking for from you. Forgiveness equals mercy.”

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