Reconciliation Village

Today was almost a complete turnaround from the sadness we experienced yesterday. We started the day by heading to the Mbyo Reconciliation Village. This is a community where survivors and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide live next to each other, work together, and try to rebuild relationships and trust after the betrayal and horror many experienced in the genocide. The reconciliation process is facilitated by an organization called Prison Fellowship. We were fortunate enough to be able to hear both survivors and perpetrators speak about their experiences in the genocide, their life after the RPF took control of Rwanda, and their personal experiences with reconciliation and forgiveness. After seeing the memorials yesterday, I could not have imagined someone sitting down with a person who had done such horrible, violent things to their loved ones. I don't think I would be able to be that strong. Yet, today we heard from people who are building trusting relationships with those who killed their families.  The people we talked with today shared with us that when the reconciliation and forgiveness process starts, there is a lot of fear on both sides. Victims are afraid that perpetrators will seek to kill or hurt them as they hurt their family during the genocide, and the perpetrators are afraid of victims' seeking revenge. I think it has to be this mutual feeling of fear and vulnerability that really opens the door for forgiveness to start. Seeing similar feelings in a person you have feared may help both people involved to open up and feel a little more safe. From the first meeting between victim and perpetrator, it is a long road to true forgiveness. In the village, building houses for each other, working together towards a common goal, is one of the ways trust can be facilitated.

After hearing their stories, we were able to ask questions about the reconciliation process to learn more about how this is accomplished. Throughout our time there, I could not stop thinking about how strong all of these people were. It takes a lot of courage to be able to even consider forgiving someone who as wronged you. On the other end, I can't really imagine how perpetrators must feel when talking with those they have wronged. One man we spoke with talked about how they need to ask forgiveness of God before they can ask forgiveness of survivors. I can only imagine this to be an incredible amount of soul searching and faith. The power of faith and religion seemed very strong amongst those we spoke with, and I think that is what really allows forgiveness to be possible. To be able to accomplish what they have is incredible and I am in awe of the resilience of each person we met at the village today.

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