My name is Jean Pierre. I am married and I have three children. I am 38 years old. I have been working as sociotherapist for three years now.
When I was recruited to become a sociotherapist, I did not really know what to expect. I initially thought it would enable me to earn some money. It was only after the basic sociotherapy training that I realized how sociotherapy had helped me to cure the wounds I suffered from due to Rwanda’s history. During the 1994 genocide, I witnessed how my neighbors killed seventeen of my family members. After that, I missed my parents a lot. I no longer had someone to ask for advice or for help whenever I faced a problem. Also, I used to think that I could have gotten better education if my parents had still been alive. In addition, it was really difficult for me to talk to my neighbors, as they were the ones who had killed my family. Therefore, I lived with my wound for a long time. I could not forgive anyone, and I thought I would not become very old.
The sociotherapy trainings and the sociotherapy sessions however, opened my mind. They made me realize that I was not the only one who was struggling. The first sociotherapy group I facilitated consisted of genocide perpetrators who had not asked for forgiveness yet. I used to think that I suffered more than them because I had lost my parents. Yet, hearing their testimonies showed me that they were ashamed of the crimes they had committed during the genocide, and that they were unhappy. Whereas before I had been stuck in the past, I then decided to move forward step by step. I started to go back to the church – something that I was not capable of doing earlier due to my experiences there during the genocide. Also, I acknowledged that peace cannot be accomplished without forgiveness. I embarked on a journey of forgiveness.
The person who had killed my parents (sentenced for life-imprisonment), one of the sociotherapy participants, wrote a letter to me asking for forgiveness. I took a long time to think about it, but finally decided to forgive the man as well as his family. I notified his family of my decision, but that was not enough; I wanted to talk to the man face-to-face. I took my time and went to visit the man in prison. He explained to me in tears how he had offended my family. I told him that I forgave him. Initially, he did not understand how I could forgive him, and it was confusing to me too. But I knew I had to forgive him sincerely. Today our families are friends again, and we are visiting each other regularly.
Not only the relationship with my neighbors has improved; I am now on better terms with the whole community. There are even families who invite me to moderate their wedding ceremonies and other ceremonies in our community. My relationship with my family improved too. Before sociotherapy, I did not have the time or motivation to socialize with my wife and children. However, now we talk with each other and I can ask my wife for advice. So, sociotherapy helped me personally to find happiness and peace in my life. Also, my fellow sociotherapists and I have become great friends; I take them as my brothers and sisters. We meet once per month in an Intervision training, during which we share the problems we face - there is not one problem that I cannot tell them. After that we go home feeling happy and released.
Sociotherapy is an important key to reconciliation in Rwanda. It is not easy to find someone or something that can heal the invisible and hidden wounds that people carry in their hearts, but this program succeeds in doing so. I think we are going to see many changes – now and in the future – in the behavior of sociotherapy participants. For example, there is a graduated sociotherapy group of genocide perpetrators in this sector. As they do not know all the names and origins of the people they killed, they composed letters to Ibuka asking for general forgiveness. I will never stop facilitating sociotherapy groups, because I would not have been healed without sociotherapy. I am a new-born of three years old. Others should have the opportunity to profit from this program too.