Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The origins of the 1994 Rwandan genocide are complex and the ethnic divisions in Rwanda between the Hutus and the Tutsis are longstanding. Tribal polarization exploded after the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana, who was a Hutu, and in a period of one hundred days, more than 800,000 people were systematically and violently murdered.
In the midst of this killing, Father Ubald Rugirangoga, a Catholic priest whose Tutsi father had been murdered in the 1962 overthrow of the Rwandan government and who had been himself threatened
by fellow seminarians in the 1980's, was forced to flee first to his bishop's residence and then to the Congo in return for a promise by the Hutus not to harm the people of his parish. As soon as he left, the Hutu members of his large parish betrayed this promise and brutally murdered approximately 45,000 Tutsi members of his parish. More than 80 members of his immediate and extended family, including his mother, were exterminated within the first two weeks of the massacre.
Before fleeing, Father Ubald promised his bishop that he would return to bring healing to his people. The massacre finally ended when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) regained power, but grief-stricken survivors were left bewildered by the intensity of the evil that had been unleashed in their country. Survivors of all ethnic groups experienced profound guilt: guilt for killing, guilt for surviving, guilt for not doing enough to prevent or mitigate the conflicts. Many sought revenge, but as has been said, "There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness."
Father Ubald spent many months in prayer and his tears filled a river before he made his way to Lourdes, France. It was there, as he meditated on the stations of the Cross, that he heard God tell him to release his sorrows and "pick up his cross." God filled his heart with a forgiveness that can only come from God. Subsequently, he met with and forgave the mayor of his town, who was the man who ordered the murder of Father Ubald's own mother. Father Ubald took responsibility for that man's children, treating them as his own and even paying for their schooling.
Father Ubald is a man who radiates the purity of God's grace and preached on forgiveness and reconciliation. He has built a center in Rwanda, called The Secret Of Peace which will minister to the people of Rwanda and the surrounding areas.
As Jesus called out for forgiveness for the people responsible for his death, this act of forgiveness from a man is a resemblance of the nature of God. Who can we not forgive?