Perhaps the greatest example of trust being rebuilt globally is Rwanda. Only two decades after the genocide of 1994, when nearly a million Tutsi’s were atrociously killed, often by Hutu neighbors, trust is being rebuilt in a genuine way. Just a boy at the time, my Rwandan friend, Father Remy, hid in a neighbor’s shed for three months with his younger brother while his mother, father and little sister were beaten to death in their home. This morning, before flying back home, Father Remy shared the details of Rwanda’s path to forgiveness, reconciliation and trust with my family over a long breakfast. He offered four steps and a few keys to reconciliation and trust.
- Absolute truth-telling. All in the village had to share what happened. The families of the killed and the families of the killers. All together.
- Justice. The innocent were sent home and the criminals were sent to prison.
- Bringing about forgiveness. If criminals asked for forgiveness and it was seen to be genuine by the village, and if they were then willing to give time, effort and anything that had taken that could be returned, the village would often decrease punishment.
- Reconciliation. It is a process that cannot be forced. Many murderers have met with the families of those they killed, reconciliation has happened, and those stories of forgiveness are being shared and taught which has in turn led to more and more forgiveness.
According to Father Remy, here are a few other keys:
- The President of Rwanda has been the right person for the job at the right time. He demanded the killing and genocide stop. He forbid revenge. He also has made it clear there are no longer tribes but only Rwandans.
- Family groups have been established for those who lost their families.
- Almost all of Rwanda believes in God and that has been a uniting force in reconciliation to each other. There is a unifying power of Jesus even for a variety of denominations and religions.
- It is important to choose to forgive but not forget. There are many memorials to remember this tragedy and to help ensure it does not happen again.
Memories are hard to heal, but time and reconciled relationships are creating new stories.