How Do We Forgive?
The countdown has begun. My feet will touch African soil in the country of Rwanda on December 29th. I already know that this will be a transformative experience as I meet with both victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide when neighbors committed the worst atrocities against one another. More than one million people were slaughtered with crude weapons of war in a ninety-day period.
Somehow, they found the power to forgive. They found a way to heal and to move forward together. There is no more ethnic recognition of Tutsis and Hutus. They are now one Rwanda. How did this happen? At the core of their forgiveness was the ability for victims to share their stories of grief, trauma, and devastation while the perpetrators listened. The road to this point is revealed in the video, “As We Forgive.” It is required viewing for my study group of fourteen students and citizens traveling under the auspices of George Mason University.
Forgiveness grows when we share our stories
“What project do you want to pursue?” Al Fuertes, my professor, inquired. Without hesitation, I said “I want to talk with storytellers and artists, women especially, who have found a sense of identity when all has been ripped away: husbands, children, parents, lovers, and friends. How do they tell their new stories of resilience?”
All of us face loss and disappointment. Some have faced the unbearable. How do we keep putting one foot in front of the other under the most adverse circumstances? I work with organizations where one co-worker cannot forgive another. I work with teams that are divided because of unresolved racial tension. But, in Rwanda, forgiveness has occurred one story at a time. When we look at our own lives, who needs to forgive us and to whom do we need to extend the olive branch? Have you calculated the cost of remaining stuck in your hurt story? I would love to read your responses. I will share my learning journey through this blog while gaining insight into the power of healing and forgiveness in Rwanda.