Urbana speaker relays true forgiveness

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One Rwandan Tutsi meets Jesus and now works toward reconciliation.

[Photo by Nikole Lim]

Urbana speaker relays true forgiveness
One Rwandan Tutsi meets Jesus and now works toward reconciliation

Forgiveness does not come easily, especially in the aftermath of genocide.

Antoine Rutayisire, dean of the Anglican Cathedral of Kigali in Rwanda survived the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

“We lost one million people in a hundred days,” he said. “Things have settled on the surface but there is still deep anger, fear and disappointment as people try to understand how things went so far and how we now go back to live together.”
Rutayisire said the dynamics of the aftermath are difficult to process.

“Survivors grapple with how to go on, but reconciliation is the key element,” he said. “That’s where the Gospel comes in and many people are turning to God. The Hutus and Tutsis now live together—in the same neighborhoods, schools and markets.”

No cause
As a Tutsi, Rutayisire said he grew up hating the Hutus. Because of their Tutsi affiliation, Rutayisire’s father was killed, Rutayisire was kicked out of school when he was 15 and he lost his teaching job at 25.

Formerly a staunch Roman-Catholic, Rutayisire received a Bible one Christmas from a student. He laughed at the gift, thinking that the Jesus in this Bible was only for the Protestants.

“The Bible sat on my shelf for six years, until one day I read it and met Jesus,” he said. “In six months, I read the entire Bible three times cover to cover. When I finished, I said, ‘Lord, here I am, use me.’”

Rutayisire said when he started preaching, he still hated the Hutus.

“It occurred to me that while on the cross, Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them.’ For two weeks, I was in a crisis of faith at the thought of having to forgive the Hutus,” Rutayisire said. “I made a list of specific people that I hated with cause, but the Lord told me I had no cause because Jesus forgave the good and evil people upon his crucifixion.

“I wept as I forgave those I hated,” he said. “The most painful experience is to forgive, but I have now become a reconciler.”

Following the genocide of 1994, Rutayisire continued to forgive.

“The Lord said to go and tell the killers that they were forgiven, so I went to the prisons and told of his love,” Rutayisire said. “I saw prisoners repent of their crimes because they heard it was possible to love and be loved.”

Rutayisire has served as a commissioner on the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission for the past 10 years. He is in charge of drafting and supervising the implementation of the national policy for reconciliation in Rwanda.

In this position, Rutayisire said he is seeing the nation of Rwanda be transformed by the cross.

“We are easily wounded,” he said, “but the Lord heals all hearts.”

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