Reconciliation and Forgiveness in Rwanda

13 Sep

Reconciliation and Forgiveness in Rwanda

Fine, Onesime and Canisius on their way to find reconciliation

Dear Friends,

I would like to tell you about a powerful, healing work of God that is happening in Rwanda. It is called the “Letter Project,” and was initiated by Judy and Pierre Allard of Just Equipping Ministries. Heaven’s Family supports this project through the Prison Ministry & Rehab Fund. It works like this:

The prison chaplains of Gisenyi, Rwanda, preach the gospel to inmates convicted of murder during the infamous genocide of 1994 and the rebel uprisings in the days since then. They ask the inmates to write letters to their victims, asking for forgiveness. The chaplains then take the letters they receive to the victims, sometimes traveling far into the mountains. When victims are found, the chaplains read the letters. Raw emotion then often pours out from deep wounds within the hearts of the families of their victims.

Here is a testimony of one such reconciliation, from our ministry partners Pierre and Judy Allard:

Fine (pronounced feen) and Canisius, two of the chaplains, choose a letter destined for a certain area of this mountainous little country of Rwanda and set out to find the victim’s family mentioned in the letter. They hope that, after 18 years, someone in the district will still remember this person, and that they will be able to give them directions. After a long bus ride, a kidney-shaking trek on motorbikes up a mountain and finally a slippery climb on foot they arrive at a small mountainous village. Once there, they meet with the local authorities and explain what they are doing. Would anyone know the family of the victims? Where do they live? Are there any survivors?

After some conversation, someone says that Onesime, the sole remaining family member, might be found in his field on the other side of this hill. Fine and Canisius find him and introduce themselves. Finally, it is time to tell Onesime that they are carrying a letter for him from the person who wiped out his family. Fine reads the letter out loud with great trepidation. Onesime then takes the letter and looks over it himself before throwing it down. He sits down on the ground and pulls his coat over his head. Silence. Then slowly the sobbing and shaking starts…. Sometimes half an hour can go by before one of the chaplains is able to ask if he would like to talk about it. Onesime slowly reveals that for 18 years he thought someone from a neighboring hill had killed his family—including his three-year-old son. Now he has discovered that it was a young man that his family had taken in as one of their own. They never thought he would betray them as they had loved him as a son.

Fine hugs Onesime while he finishes sobbing. Canisius asks if he would like prayer. The two chaplains pray for Onesime as he relives all his memories of the event with them. He is broken, then furious, and finally resolved to find some sort of peace.

Then the chaplains ask if he would like to come to the prison and meet face to face with the offender. He is at first speechless. Then he slowly says yes. He has more questions to ask—details of the killings. He wants to know where the bodies of his wife and children are. He wants to hear regret in the offender’s voice and see it in his eyes. He wants to try to forgive. Onesime’s journey of healing has just begun.

God is at work in Rwanda. Thank you for your gifts to the Prison Ministry & Rehab Fund that help make this work possible.

Onesime, third from left on the bottom row, with the Rwandan chaplains

May God richly bless you!

Bob Collins
Director, Prison Ministry & Rehab Fund

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