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Being granted forgiveness liberates a tortured heart

12 mei 2016

I was an active participant in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. The crimes I committed were extremely atrocious and heinous; in my madness I even tried to kill a child of my own relative.  After the genocide I was arrested and imprisoned. Nineteen years later I was released and sent back home. For that I thank the government of Rwanda. The notion of being free evaporated as soon as I was informed that the child I attempted to kill survived. Ever since that moment, my heart and mind became my prison. I became restless to the extent that I developed serious insomnia. Although I was free to go elsewhere in the country, I always avoided visiting my extended family fearing to meet the child I attempted to kill and his mother.

 

“Before participating in sociotherapy, I felt trapped, ashamed and frustrated, even though I was out of prison.”

 

Several years after my release, I attended sociotherapy group sessions. This turned out to be an exceptional experience. I learned to overcome my fear and to share my feelings and thoughts with other group members. When we were in the phase of safety, it was not easy to speak as I was overwhelmed by emotions. Nonetheless, I managed to express the pain I carried in my heart related to my attempt to kill my nephew and participation in many successful killings. Sociotherapy group members listened to me; they comforted me and suggested that I approach the family I had offended to ask for forgiveness.

 

The sociotherapists and some local leaders accompanied me for a reconciliation meeting with the family of the child I attempted to kill. I can't explain how emotional it was to meet my victim for the first time. After apologizing and asking for forgiveness, I, the child and his mother cried a lot. I don't know how to express my gratitude to the family that not only helped me to overcome my feelings of shame and guilt but also reconnected me to them. I can compare the young boy who forgave me to Jesus after his resurrection, when he forgave those who had killed him.