Today (Thursday the 15th) Pat Daley, Dan Hanlon, and myself spent much of the day with Pastor Deo. Pastor Deo has been called to many ministries, but two of them are prison reconciliation and reconciliation villages. These villages are where victims and perpetrators of the genocide live together and work together in the hope that by living together, reconciliation may and will occur. After visiting one such village today, if it is not a miracle, it’s only one level below it, because reconciliation, real reconciliation, is occurring.
The village we visited is about one hour east of Kigali. It is made up of around 130 men, women, and children. Everyone works in the fields harvesting hay and corn by hand with hand tools. Goats are used to fertilize the grounds, and they’re a couple of cows that are attended to for the production of milk. Homes are for generally five people and are made from concrete with tin roofs. There is an outhouse behind each house for the occupants’ use. Water is collected thru gutters on the homes and moved thru pipes to storage tanks. There are solar panels on each house that power the one or two internal lights each house has.
Most of the 130 are survivors of the genocide, but there are people there who have just been released from prison for committing acts of genocide, and there are those who are still serving their sentence but live and work at the village and are supervised by guards. It seem those still serving their sentence work apart from everyone else, but for those who completed their sentence, they are working besides the victims, sometimes, their victims. When we arrived, there were around 30 people working in one place, and we gathered on a hill to meet them. Pastor Deo asked for testimonies. A woman, Lauren, stood up and announced she had lost her whole family in the genocide, but she has forgiven and reconciled with the man responsible for taking the lives of those who she cared for. Immediately after this testimony, a man stood up and said he was the one responsible for taking them. I can’t quote exactly what he said, but he was standing no more than 5 feet away from that woman, and I did not detect hatred in her or in him. They have and will continue to work together in the fields, and they have, in both of their testimonies, reconciled. They did not run away from one another and avoid one another; they have found peace with one another. Following all the testimonies, the four of us shook hands and gave hugs to everyone, including these two who inspired us.
Another amazing story was told no less than 20 minutes later. A male survivor who was close to Pastor Deo had either lost his leg or his leg was severely damaged because he used a cane to get around. It wasn’t till later that Pastor Deo mentioned his head when we noticed the machete wound on it. This man, and we asked Pastor Deo a second time later to make sure, had married the widow of the man who had killed his family. A challenge to us all, if a person can reconcile with someone who has killed their family, can you and myself reconcile, or at least begin the steps of reconciliation, with others who have wronged us, whether big or small?
Following the visit to the reconciliation village, we stopped at Nymata. Nymata is a Catholic church where over 10,000 people died in one day during the genocide. 10,000 Rwandans fled to the church for sanctuary. Organized genocide parties found this church, and realizing it will take too long to kill all the people inside and outside of the church, our guide said, and I quote “they called in the government for the heavy guns and hand bombs”. What happen inside I will not put down into words. It is said “the light overtakes and shines in the darkness”, in this case, “the light highlights the darkness”. From seeing this church today, it made the light of the reconciliation village from the morning all the more powerful.
Posted and written by Otto Zimmermann