“When I met him there, he knelt, and then he looked at me. He said, ‘Marcel, you know what I did? Do you have space in your heart to forgive me?’” he recalled. “Mind you, at that moment I was wondering whether he meant it. Am I safe?”
Father Uwineza said he was “invaded by something higher than him. It’s something we can’t forgive on our own. There is a decision to make, but we’re empowered by God.”
“I asked him to rise, then we embraced each other. At that moment, I felt like the chains had broken away from my leg. Like I, too, had been in prison. Now I was set free,” he recounted.
He added: “The Society of Jesus had given me some holiday allowance, so I took him to a nearby pub. We shared a drink and we were shedding tears.”
“Forgiveness sets you free. It’s not an event, it’s a process, so my experience may not be the experience of everyone, but I hope this inspires couples, often struggling in families, kids who can’t forgive their parents, employees who can’t forgive their employers. If, by God’s grace, I was able to get to this level, there are other things we can let go,” he said.
A people rising from the ashes
The Rwandan Jesuit priest said that many people in his native country of Rwanda “have lost their voices” since the genocide.
“I did write this book to lend a voice to so many people who died, who can’t speak today. This is my voice to so many who have been very voiceless,” he said.
The book, he said, “will help people to understand who the human person is and what we are capable of doing, especially when you go to the third chapter on the pain of Rwanda, but also the hope that has sprung, that someone can still speak about God even when they are risen from the ashes.”
Today Rwanda is gradually recovering from the genocide, Uwineza said, adding that reconciliation is a process, and that it takes quite a long time to mend broken relationships and sometimes relationships may never mend.
“Rwanda has made some strides and there has been a journey. If that goes with accountability and justice, it will be successful,” the priest said during the event, which was broadcast on Capuchin TV Kenya.
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“Rwanda today has two images. Rwanda is a cemetery and a construction site,” he said.
“A cemetery in the sense that on almost every hill you have graves. You even have people we haven’t discovered where they were put or who killed them; some families are even still hoping that they will see their relatives,” Uwineza explained.
He continued: “We have memorial sites that remind us where we have been. Keeping the memory of those who have died is paramount in the process of reconciliation and healing.”
Rwanda is also a construction site, the Nairobi-based priest said, because the country “will take a long time to build reconciliation and forgiveness in the hearts of the people.”
The Kindle edition of the book is available for purchase here.
This article was originally published by ACI Africa, CNA’s sister news agency in Africa. It has been adapted by CNA.