Friday, December 19, 2008

Rwanda and Forgiveness

In yesterday’s news it was reported that a former Rwandan army colonel who was behind the 1994 slaughter of more than 800,000 people was convicted of genocide and sentenced to life in prison. Theoneste Bagosora was found guilty of crimes against humanity. He used his position as director of Rwanda’s Ministry of Defense to direct Hutu soldiers to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus in one of the most brutal acts of killing ever witnesses.

Some 63,000 people are suspected of taking part in the genocide. This has left the country dealing with a lot of pain, anger and hatred. If this is ignored and not dealt with in a way that is healing it sets the stage for more bloodshed down the road.

Rwanda was a terrible tragedy. The genocide created a lot of trauma and suffering. Forgiveness is a necessary step in the healing process. In order to do that people will need to heal first, work out their anger in ways which do not perpetuate the cycle of violence. Only when they are able to do that and truly mourn their losses will they be able to start thinking about what brought their countrymen to do what they did in the first place. It is at this point that forgiveness can become a possibility, when people can begin to walk in "other" peoples shoes. When we can begin to see the pain of the other side and what brought them to do these terrible acts that a deeper healing has begun to take place. This is not easy but when we are able to understand the causes of what has happened and take responsibility for our emotional reactions, only then can we move forward in a transformative way. This is what forgiveness is about.

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