“I found it hard to understand how victims could forgive perpetrators just because they had asked for forgiveness.”
My name is Julius. I was born in 1994, and grew up without my father as he died in that same year.
Rwanda's history and genocide deeply affected my peace of mind. I was initially taught about the Genocide against the Tutsi during the annual commemoration week. After hearing about the history, I was convinced that history was going to repeat itself. I did not understand how victims could forgive perpetrators just because the latter had asked for forgiveness. "What is the source of that forgiveness, and is it actually sincere?” I thought to myself, I also wondered how offenders could believe that they were forgiven. I doubted the sincerity of that. Having this fear that genocide could happen again really stressed me and affected my behavior. I started abusing many different kinds of drugs, and dropped out of school. I was always angry and had trust issues. I could not trust anybody; I could look at someone and just feel hatred. Also, for every offence directed against me, I would seek revenge. In short, I was a drunkard and a wicked guy.
One day, I saw a group of people sitting at our Cell's office, and noticed they actually met there every week at the exact same time and day. I was curious to know why they were sitting there every time. When I asked them, they told me that this Mvunkuvure had been introduced in our area. After that, I started hearing how people in Sociotherapy groups had offered forgiveness to their offenders, without the latter being physically there. This got me thinking that forgiveness could actually be sincere, since people shared it publically and sometimes the offender hadn't even apologized yet. Seeing that those people that had forgiven each other started to reconnect and live together again peacefully, made me convinced that genocide would not happen again. I felt safe for the first time, as I knew my worries about a possible resurge of genocide was no longer grounded. There was hope for sustainable peace in my country.
Later on I joined Mvurakuvure group myself. Hearing group member's testimonies on how they had felt before joining the program, made me humble and more understanding. I learned to trust people again and regained my faith in the future. I decided to change my behavior, so that I could also use the advice that my group had given me. I went back to school, and started fighting for living peacefully with others. I take time to listen to people and to help them change their bad behaviors into good ones. I became the advisor of some other youth who were drunkards like me. Therefore, I am now highly valued by others in my community.
Before sociotherapy, it was unimaginable for me that people who became vulnerable due to the genocide were able to forgive the persons that victimized them. However, sociotherapy has helped me to change my thoughts and my behavior, I am grateful for it.
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." (Gandhi)