– April is a time of annual mourning and remembrance in Rwanda
as the nation reflects on the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people
were killed. Memorial services are being held across the country and many
Rwandese are visiting mass graves where their loved ones are buried, still
pained by the bloodshed that nearly destroyed a country.
For the past 17 years, Rwanda’s
government has developed infrastructure and promoted unity among its citizens.
People are no longer required to carry identity cards to determine their
ethnicity; they are all simply Rwandans.
While unity is slowly growing, genuine forgiveness is difficult for most
Rwandans, and many still suffer from the emotional trauma of seeing their
families killed, often by neighbors or other people they knew. Rwandan pastor
Charles Buregeya of New Life
shares about a young man in his church who witnessed his own family’s execution
during the genocide.
“The whole experience of seeing your father and mother killed, and hiding
yourself at the age of five, that picture is very vivid in his mind and his
life,” Buregeya said. “There are so many people who saw what happened (to their
The Hutu-led genocide against the Tutsi people lasted for approximately 100
days. Many were hacked to death by machete, women were violently and repeatedly
raped, and children’s heads were smashed into brick walls. Some women escaped
death but were forced to watch their families executed, then intentionally
infected with HIV through rape, ensuring they would suffer the rest of their
lives. According to information at the Kigali Memorial Centre, by the time the
Rwandan Patriotic Front liberated Rwanda,
85 percent of the Tutsi population had been killed.
Despite the severe trauma they experienced, many Tutsi Christians are learning
to forgive their neighbors for what happened in 1994.
Georgina Nkubito lost several relatives during the genocide and often sees the
Hutu extremists who killed her family. “During April it is hard because of what
we have experienced; however, we try to be patient when we meet those who wanted
to kill us,” said Nkubito. “We remember that the Bible says if you don’t
forgive you won’t be forgiven. We forgive those who have hurt us, but it is
Another woman, Marie Therese Mukantagwera, lost her parents, siblings, husband
and only child in the genocide. She was also raped and intentionally infected
with HIV. “I forgive,” she says. “… There is no reason to hold on to that
Buregeya, the pastor, believes a major factor in helping Rwanda
heal from the past is to help survivors deal with the emotional trauma of the
genocide. His church ministers to survivors and helps them learn about
“The Bible says all things are possible but those possibilities are miracles –
the number of people who have recovered from that past,” he said. “They have
received comfort from God and now are reaching out to comfort other people.”
Buregeya shared about Chantal, a lady who lost her family in the genocide.
Chantal chose to be one of those new lives climbing out of the rubble. According
to Buregeya, she went to the killers to ask where they left her family’s
bodies. Initially they refused to tell, but after several visits they led her
to the remains. Since then Chantal has forgiven them, loved them and offered
assistance to them when help was needed.
“I don’t know how she does it, it’s a miracle, but every case is different,”
Buregeya said. “It’s going to take time and gradually people are getting there.”
The effects of those 100 days are still evident, but Buregeya sees Rwanda
as a country slowly healing. Tutsis and Hutus are learning to live together
again, going to church and school together and breaking free from the pain of
the past. Some who lost their families in the genocide once refused to forgive
the killers but now understand God’s plan of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
“I know some people who (said they) would never forgive, and they have come all
the way to the cross, given their lives to Jesus Christ and found the only way
for them to go forward is to forgive those who have transgressed against them,”
Buregeya said. “Lives are being changed through the preaching of the Gospel. It’s
a miracle; God is working here in Rwanda
in a miraculous way.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Based in Africa,
Alexander is a writer for IMB’s Global Communication Team.)
(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical
Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new
Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank
you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or
issues with items we run, please contact [email protected]
or call 919-847-2127.)