To Forgive is Divine
This is the time of year that we are humbled, in hearing the testimonies of survivors we see the myriad ways in which the events of 1994 present new problems. The story of Patricia touched our hearts, it was a lesson in how reconciliation and forgiveness brings true healing. She suffered the torment of being a Tutsi in a school just before in 93, when children were separated in class according to tribe, she went to join her friends in the Hutu section and was beaten back to her side, and so she left school altogether. During the Genocide against Tutsi she taught children as they hid from the machetes, eventually most were found and killed, but, she said, they died knowing how to read. Her family was massacred, but she somehow survived, but that was only the beginning of her suffering. She decided she would forgive the killers of her family, killers she knew well, people she once shared with and lived with. On her first day as a teacher the first pupil to walk through the door was the son of the man who killed her father, he didn’t just kill him but tortured him and pleasured in doing it. The child was downcast, could not look her in the eye, when she did a roll-call he refused to give his name. “Just call me Aimable, I have no other name.” She could have asked for the child to be moved to another class, it is one thing to forgive, but another thing to have to meet the man who killed your family every parents-teachers day. She asked him again to state his name “if I tell you my name you’ll hate me, because it is the same as my father’s.” She put an arm around him, held him and said “Don’t ever be ashamed of your name, you are not your father, only your father will be asked of his crimes, they are nothing to do with you. Your only job is to be the best student you can be, nothing else.” She really took time and effort to help the boy, to make him more confident as a person.
Patricia is on a level 5 of Reconciliation, where she has fully self-actualized what it means to forgive and transcend your tragedy, and use it for good to help others. I get the feeling that she was already a deeply compassionate person before her tragedy and somehow kept her compassion in all the madness. It shows that reconciliation without compassion is impossible, it would just be a futile act. How many of us could be as compassionate to forgive a killer and hold no grudges and carry on your job as usual. Very few people have reached that level of reconciliation, nor should you feel obliged to, for some, just forgiving is enough. We often portray the most extreme versions of reconciliation, but they are hardly representative “He killed my family now we’re best friends and play football twice a week.” That is not normal, this might be Stockholm Syndrome. Many avoid giving their testimony because at the end you have to say everything is fine and dandy, most are not there yet. Another big question it raises, the effect of this on the next generation, children who weren’t even born when it happened but see the haunting shadow of something never spoken in their homes. Like the child who knew his father had committed crimes against his teacher, expecting the teacher to hate him too. Love can disarm your enemy better than any gun, the father of the boy can’t have told him the truth but the truth came out. Patricia has not given up, she has not surrendered, she is fighting alternative warfare by non-violent means, using love as a weapon. She is fighting genocide ideology like soldiers in RDF but by other means, her mission is to save the next generation, to stop any stigma, any association with such an ideology. When we stigmatize a generation we doom them to repeat the mistakes of their parents.
We don’t talk about “you know what?”
I find that for the majority of Rwandan find it hard to approach the subject of what happened in 1994. For one side it is hard to remember all those who were hacked, for another it might bring deep shame to confront what Daddy did for 3 months some 24 years ago. The net result is the same, not talking about it and the danger of repeating it. We’ve relied on parents to talk to their kids about it but that has clearly failed, we wait till people are fully formed to engage them and try to change minds set in concrete. It made me wonder if we should water it down to make it more palatable? But the message would be lost or blurred, it would be revisionism by another name. My friend who grew up in Germany gave me the solution how they do it. In primary they teach simple nice history, the Romans, Greeks, etc, but in secondary it becomes very real, it is entirely around the holocaust and the events around it. History is compulsory in Germany and very gruesome, meant to shock the young generation into not repeating it. It is propaganda but they make no apologies about it. We need to teach history in schools compulsorily, we need to teach Civics and good citizenship in schools, we need to teach our national vision in schools. The genocide ideology was incubated in our school system, it is how they got the entire future political, economic and social classes in their pockets. We will not undo this with Ibiganiro of adults who are already set in stone, we will undo this by teaching the history of our nation to future generations. We need a dissociation between generations, to deny ethnic unity and condemn what is wrong. Today Germany has the most anti-genocide mindset there is, meanwhile in America only 40% know what Auschwitz was, memory is dying. Teach it raw, let them see the horrors like German kids do, it is the only way to avoid it.