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Lessons from the Village of Reconciliation



  • May 03, 2012
Blog Team

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Every time I travel to Rwanda, I discover how many individuals unreservedly rely on their faith in God as they live amidst the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. One such example is my dear friend Pastor Stephen Gahigi and the people of the Village of Reconciliation in the district of Bugesera.

As a pastor of one of the Anglican churches in Rwanda, Pastor Stephen told me that had it not been for the Word of God, bitterness would have destroyed him. He lost many family members and witnessed personally the atrocities perpetrated on his family by the killers.

I recently read Pastor Stephen’s book about his life during the genocide. I was particularly stunned by the fact that nearly 333 people were killed every hour of the genocide in Rwanda. The district of Bugesera experienced a huge number of people killed because of the large concentration of the Tutsi people in this area.

In his book, he shares that

For a long time I held the Old Testament teaching, ‘. . . eye for eye and tooth for tooth’ from Exodus 21:24. It made me think that revenge was scriptural and acceptable . . . I felt that I had a God-given right to revenge, so I could hang on to my feelings of hate [and] it was okay.

Pastor Stephen has forgiven the person that killed one of his family members, and they are now friends that see each other on a regular basis. He is involved in teaching others how to reconcile and has been instrumental in getting many children to attend school.

I have had the privilege of traveling to Rwanda 23 times in the past four years. It’s still hard for me to imagine the approximate 1.1 million people that were killed throughout Rwanda during the genocide.

The people of Bugesera have made a conscientious decision to forgive so they can rebuild their community together. Today, they live side by side. When I visit and watch them dance and laugh together, the same questions come to mind: What is it about the Word of God that makes the people of Rwanda hold it in such high regard? Why do they have the reckless abandonment to the teachings of Jesus Christ about forgiveness?

I will forever be indebted to these people who unashamedly reach out to each other in the name of Jesus Christ. They are not afraid to say, “I should not have hated you. I am summoning the courage to say ‘no more.’ We have a country to rebuild.”

Rwanda is one of the few places on earth that has honestly changed me. Every time I go, I see amazing transformation in the infrastructure of this land, but also the determination of the people to do better than their predecessors in every aspect of life. I am grateful for the privilege to have met the amazing people of Rwanda who work hard to make their country a better place for future generations.

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