- Karen Visser
Empower - November 2017
CbL continue to support the Empower program in Rwanda every month and November was no exception! 36 individuals participated in the November Empower, some were survivors and some were perpetrators of the 1994 genocide.
Group Outcomes On the last day of Empower, many people testified to positive changes, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Many participants were able to restore relationships within their families, through changing their behaviour and fulfilling their family responsibilities. Forgiveness is a key element in Empower and participants often find themselves feeling freer after they have forgiven people and events from the genocide. After understanding the real meaning of forgiveness, many survivors made the decision to forgive those who hurt them in order to have peace in their lives. On the other hand, many perpetrators found the courage to ask for forgiveness, which allowed them to find inner peace and also helps the healing journey of those they have hurt.
A man who was a victim of the genocide, learnt to forgive and let go of hatred - Matthew* was a Tutsi man, married to a Hutu woman. During the genocide, he took his wife and children to the wife's family to find safety with them, while he went to hide with his father's family. Sadly, his father, mother and aunt all died.
His wife struggled to hide their children as her family wanted them to be killed. Because of the struggle his wife faced, Matthew said she is no longer a Hutu but is now Tutsi, as she had gone through the same struggles as other Tutsis. They do not have a good relationship with the wife's family because of this.
Matthew was full of anger and hatred towards Hutus, and especially his in-laws. He would take his revenge against Hutus by beating them at any opportunity.
During Empower, he learnt the advantages of forgiveness and how he can have peace in his heart. He was a lonely person before Empower, but decided to look for a friend. He was unable to sleep, but now he can. He learnt all people are the same as human beings, despite the conflict they experience, and he has begun to love Hutus, including hi in-laws. He decided to visit a woman in prison who was involved in the murder of his grandmother. He has learnt a lot from Empower and hopes to teach others in his community, especially those in conflict.
A woman who's children were nearly killed and is now divorced from her husband - Jacqueline* is a Hutu woman, and was married to a Tutsi man. During the genocide, her children were 1 year and 2 and a half years old. She had gone to her family to hide, but the militia found them and tried to murder her children. They would not kill her as she was Hutu, but she followed them as they took her children away.
She watched her children being beaten and as they were thrown into the bushes. The militia believed them dead, but she and her sister found them, and nursed them. They went to hide with another relative and they survived. After the genocide, her husband rejected her and hated her because she was a Hutu.
Jacqueline went to Empower with sorrow in her heart. She wondered about her children, who are neither Hutu or Tutsi, and about her husband who has rejected her. She is now divorced from her husband, though she still does not know why he hates her. Empower has helped to her to accept her life as it is now, and to forgive her husband. She accepted what the history of her country did to her family and accepted the identity of her children. She went home having experienced the beginning of healing and ready to help her children also learn to forgive.
*Names have been changed to protect their identity