Forgiveness in Rwanda (part 2) – Alphonsine Imaniraguha
From the wealthy, to the unborn, to the hurting, to the poverty-stricken, God has placed a value on human life far above any other piece of his creation. This month a group of guest-bloggers will share a variety of stories that will cause us to think about the amazing value of life.
Thanks for joining our Sanctity of Life journey.
My first guest blogger is Alphonsine Imaniraguha. Though we have spent very little time face-to-face, we have grown a bond online. I have had the privilege of sharing pieces of her story on this blog and the honor of editing some of her work over the past couple years. The following is the second of a 2-Part post about her survival of the 1994 Rwandan genocide is both an atrocious story of evil and a beautiful story of forgiveness.
On Sunday, April 24th, as my mother, brother, cousin and I were gathered by a mass grave to be killed; the Hutu interahamwe militiamen asked my mother if she had any other children not there with us. My mother immediately said that she had a son and two daughters, and revealed where they hid.
My older brother Jean Felix, who was 15, was not trusted enough to go retrieve them because they thought he would run away and escape. The militiamen turned toward me and pushed me to go get them. I was given an armed soldier to escort me. Before I left, I pleaded to the killers, as if they would listen, to not kill my mother before I came back.
And that’s when the merciless killers started beating my older brother with sharp wires. The last memory of my brother engraved in my heart is of tears and blood streaming down his sweet face. And my plea was the final word with my mother and brother I loved so much.
The same soldier (my escort) who watched and possibly helped kill my mom and brother, urged me to leave my three younger siblings alone, and didn’t lead me back to the crime scene; instead, he escorted me to a place I’d never been before.I was so sure that he was going to rape me before my death, but I was determined to plead to be shot instead. At 13, I was convinced that he would listen, to make me an exception among hundreds of thousands of Tutsi women who were shamed before their death.
When we arrived at his house that night, he fed me and gave me his daughter’s clothes to wear and a headscarf to disguise myself. His home was near the main military camp in Kanombe. He also detailed the death of my loved ones, and told me that he only saved me to tell a story.
He mentioned that he sent his family to the western part of the country. This was because the Tutsi rebels, who later stopped the Genocide in July, were advancing from the north, towards the capital. The Rwandan forces were losing the battle and running towards the west. During my 2-3 weeks there, he didn’t touch me or show any signs of interest in me besides keeping me safe. One day though, as the rebels drew closer, he escaped leaving me alone in his house, unharmed.
Although my comfortable world has been twisted forever, I forgave all those who took lives of my loved ones, even though they didn’t apologize to me. Some may be already dead, and those who are still alive are probably in jail. Why did I forgive them? Here is why:
1) I have no doubt that my parents and two siblings who perished in April 1994 are in heaven. I miss them a lot. But I know they are in a peaceful place with God. I patiently long for the day I will see them again. They will be proud of me! With that said, it is written in Hebrews 12:14 “Strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”. For all that is worth, I will do whatever it takes to please God who has my parents and siblings with Him. That includes forgiving my enemies.
2) There is nothing I can possibly do to bring back my loved ones, even if I could take revenge and kill all their murderers. However, there is someone who can avenge for me when I feel anger crouching at the door of my heart. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. (Romans 12:19). So now I know someone will repay all those who wronged me, my only part is to truly forgive them.
3) I sin too. Romans 3:23 goes like this: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. I don’t see where it says only killers. Everyone, including victims, needs Jesus.
In Mathew 18:21-35, Jesus tells us the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant after Peter asked him how many times he should forgive a brother who sins against him. The king had a servant who owed him $14 billion dollars; since he couldn’t pay back, the king ordered him and his family to be sold until they could pay it off. Then the servant fell on his knees begging the king to give him time to pay everything off. Out of pity, the king forgave him the debt.
As this very servant left, he encountered a fellow servant who owed him $2,000. He started choking him asking to pay it all, and when his debtor couldn’t pay he put him in prison. As the story goes on, the master found out what the first servant did. Out of anger, the master put him in jail until he could pay off all his debt.
And this brings me back to my point: if my past, present and future sins were converted in USD, I would be imprisoned for the rest of my life. And I never want to be like this unforgiving servant. My part again, is to forgive, even if it hurts so much.
4) The final point is that we will all face God on the judgment day, where our work in this life will be judged. Hebrews 4:13 states that: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account”. God knows it all, and to your advantage, if you feel like you are overcame by rage against those who have wronged you, remember at least this one verse: “To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20
“You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.” – Lewis B. Smedes.
I pray that all those who wronged me find a way to the cross of Jesus, where sinners trade their filthy rags for the righteousness of God. If they don’t, they will face God, the Father of the fatherless, my Strong Redeemer. I have already forgiven all of them with all my heart and wish them nothing but the Salvation!
Alphonsine is a Network Engineer with Cisco Systems in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was born in Rwanda where she lived until moving to the US in 2006. She is a motivational speaker through her non-profit organization, Rising Above the Storms.