TWENTY years after a devastating genocide left more than 800,000 of their countrymen dead, Rwandans have a new lesson for the world, the chief executive of World Vision Australia, Tim Costello said today.
That lesson is that no matter how violent and vehement the conflict, forgiveness and reconciliation can bring extraordinary healing and hope, said Mr Costello who returned from Rwanda yesterday.
“The entire country is now an unprecedented experiment in reconciliation as perpetrators and survivors build their lives side by side,” Mr Costello said. “Their journey has not been easy and it is far from over, but Rwanda is essentially a country transformed.”
As Rwanda commences its commemoration of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost 20 years ago in the genocide, Rwandans have much to mourn and remember Mr Costello said.
Two decades ago, World Vision released photographs and video footage that helped expose the Rwanda genocide to the world. A few years later World Vision was one of the first non-profit organisations to include peace building in all of its relief and development work following the events of 1994.
World Vision’s National Director in Rwanda George Gitau said that the nation is expected to mourn as they remember the dark history when so many people died.
“This is a day all Rwandans look on with great sadness, remembering those killed and the deep and lasting impact on the entire country. It’s a day we mourn the generation of children lost or made orphans by the violence,” Mr Gitau said. “However, in the coming weeks, we can also turn to see stories of hope; peace and forgiveness that have come following this terrible tragedy.”
World Vision’s reconciliation work is based on the idea that forgiveness must come first; it must be offered before repentance or remorse.
“It has been overwhelming to hear story after story of Rwandans choosing to forgive despite profoundly wrong acts committed twenty years ago,” Mr Costello said.
World Vision Rwanda was established with an emergency response in 1994 during the genocide. World Vision continues its development work, directly serving around 2.5 million children and their families with life-saving interventions.
The organisation continues to facilitate reconciliation groups where survivors and victims in communities come together to talk and seek forgiveness in a process facilitated by counsellors and clergy. It’s a model the government of Rwanda has also used throughout the country.
The anniversary of the Rwandan genocide comes as many countries around the world remain in bitter conflict within their borders, including South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria.
Source: World Vision Australia