I am Rwandese

Twenty years ago, Pina’s country of Rwanda, was struck by an absurd civil war that resulted in the death of at least 800 thousand people in a few short months. “For the past twenty years my people have continued to mourn the victims of the war and, at the personal level individuals visited private cemeteries.” On April 6, 1994 President Juvenal Habyarimana’s aeroplane was struck by a missile attack. None of the passengers survived, and the war that was already brewing broke out.

In that moment Pina was living in the Philippines where she was following her vocation to the spirituality of unity that she had been living since she was a child. She recounts: “My family was also impacted by the war. Thirty-nine of my relatives were murdered. I was taken by despair. Gradually I felt emptied of those sentiments that had filled my soul up until then, I felt that nothing made sense anymore.”

She was transferred to Kenya in order to follow the situation more closely. She worked at the Red Cross and assisted the wounded and refugees from Rwanda: “but I wasn’t able to look at the people of other ethnic groups in the face, the ones who had taken part in the massacres.” The pain was too vivid. One day she came upon some people from another ethnic group and couldn’t avoid catching their eye. The animosity grew. “I thought about revenge, but I felt confused. I had come to a crossroad: either I would close myself in my pain and anger, or I would ask God’s help.”

A few days later at the office, she recognized some people from the enemy group who were living right there in the city. “They recognised who I was and felt uneasy, they began to turn back and walk the other way. They also saw me as their enemy.” Pina saw that forgiveness was the only hope for social reconciliation. She had learnt this from the Gospel. “With a sense of power, I walked up to them and spoke to them in their own language. I didn’t mention my own family, but only tried to show interest in what they needed. Just then, something loosened within me.” A glimmer of light had been given to Pina.

A year later she returned to Rwanda. She hardly recognised her sister, the only family member who had survived the massacre. She learnt that the man who had betrayed their family – a very close friend – was in prison. “Although I was in pain and opposed to the people who invoked the death penalty, it was clear that I could pull back now that I had taken the first step toward forgiveness.” She took her sister who had witnessed the massacre. “And so we went to the prison together, to visit this man. We brought him cigarettes, some soap and whatever we could find. But mostly we went to tell him that we forgave him. And we did it.” Her sister, Domitilla, would soon adopt 11 children from several ethnic groups, without making distinctions between natural and adopted children, and later won a national award.

This year, Pina explains, “on the 20th anniversary we have something new: Tutsi and Hutu together in carrying remains to the National Cemetery for burial – all of us Rwandese.” They are the true heroes of this country. “This is an important step forward,” Pina remarked, “we are returning to the way we were before the war.” The project was named The Flower of Reconciliation, so that it might continue to bear fruits of peace in Rwandan society.”

See also:

Il Rwanda ricorda, venti anni dopo, by Liliane Mugombozi in Città Nuova online

Il fiore della riconciliazione, by Aurelio Molé in Città Nuova online

6 Comments

  • Abbiamo letto la sua meravigliosa esperienza che ci ha dato tanta gioia e speranza per il suo popolo e per tutto il mondo! Andiamo avanti insieme a portare sempre di più la civiltà’ dell’amore!

    focolarine di Cebu e Davao

  • Grazie carissima Pina di questa esperienza profonda e commovente del perdono, e ringrazia anche la tua sorella Domitilla per la sua bellissima e forte testimonianza nell’adottare anche i bambini dell’etnia nemica…Esperienze e testimonianze del genere sicuramente aiutano a costruire un nuovo Rwanda e un Mondo unito per cui anch’io mi sto impegnando a vivere. Sono con voi! Fides-Uganda-Est Africa

  • Ciao Pina!
    I am happy that you are finally home now, amongst your own people and able to live in peace!
    Your experience and the story of your sister is incredible! But as one who was also, in another moment, a victim of violence, I know w are united in the belief that the Gospel overcomes all, that LOVE overcomes all. God gave us the grace of the moment to take that one step necessary to free ourselves.
    So from across the world, HUGS to you and praying for the day we can see each other again!
    1!

  • j ecris ces mots comme un hommage aux 800 000 Ruandais morts , certains comme martyrs. je les ecris aussi comme une admiration aux Ruandais d aujourd hui ,pour saluer leur courage d avoir commence ce chemin difficile de la reconciliation. Je les ecris enfin pour que chacun de nous aussi la ou il se trouve commence a pardonner
    Joseph

    • Grazie Pina per la tua testimonianza, per aver avuto il coraggio di chiedere seriamente aiuto a Dio. Hai creduto in Lui ed è avvenuto il miracolo del perdono e della riconciliazione fuori e dentro di te. La tua storia mi incoraggia sempre ad andare al di là di ogni difficoltà. Capisco da dove arriva la grande capacità che hai di amare tutti!! ….ma la tua storia non è ancora finita, quindi andiamo avanti insieme a “lavorare” per il mondo unito. Daniela Camp

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