Seeking forgiveness in person even 25 years later

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Those of you who have read my blog know of my deep love and interaction with the nation of Rwanda. I have posted before of the impact on me of spending a few weeks there last year, and I hope to go again. Right now is the twenty five year remembrance period of the Genocide of 1994, primarily a three month period starting in April that resulted in the death of over 800,000 Rwandans. As I have written before, it is still so amazing to me that this nation has recovered to the level it has so far. It is leading the way in several categories of development in Africa and continues to be an encouragement more widely of how a nation can dwell in the depths of hell and still survive.

Another nation on my heart is Sri Lanka. I have visited there more than twenty times in the last twenty seven years, and was there in the same area that one of the bombs went off a few weeks before, killing scores of people on Easter Sunday. Sri Lanka needs the hope that Rwanda is experiencing. After a brutal and bloody civil way that ended ten years ago, these recent attacks could open up deep wounds never fully healed. The senselessness of these attacks, and of course the violence of 1994 in Rwanda, is mind numbing. But we must go on living. We must continue to face the horrors of the human heart, and find a hope beyond in also being made in God’s image. Often those two things are hard to reconcile.

There is no time limit in facing the pain and horror of what we have done to others, no statute of limitations. Repentance and restitution for wronging others creates its own freshness, its own hope. Even after twenty five years, perpetrators of unspeakable violence in Rwanda are seeking out their victims and asking forgiveness. Sometimes after emerging from prison sentences. One of the devastating things about the 1994 Genocide is that at times it was Christian priests who led the massacres. Many priests, on the other hand, also shielded people from the militias at the cost of their own lives. It was not all Christian leaders by any means. But there were some, and in one case a ringleader is reportedly still in hiding in France.

A recent story from Rwanda is that of a Catholic man who had killed several people, and then served a sentence in prison. Upon his release, his priest had encouraged him to find his victims families and face to face ask forgiveness. This of course was a terrifying thought, not knowing what response he would find. As this man traveled to the area where he had murdered people, to his great shock he found two of the people he thought were dead had only been injured and had survived. He looked them in the eyes and begged forgiveness. Part of the amazing story of Rwanda’s emergence from hell into reconciliation is the unique way practical forgiveness is taking place, including working together on community projects.

It is not a perfect story. It never will be while our dark human hearts continue. But there is the possibility of life, of hope, of healing, of forgiveness. We are truly made in His image, though sin and evil have marred that image. Through the work of Christ on the cross we can find a place of new life, new life, restoration and the growing light of a new world even while living in this one.

My next post will also be on Rwanda and the wounds that still exist from twenty five years ago in one man’s heart. But it also is a story of hope.

May my dear friends in Sri Lanka find hope right now. You have a beautiful nation. Your future has hope in it, and like Rwanda, you will have a message of that hope for the world.

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