19 June, 2008

As We Forgive: An interview with Laura Waters Hinson

As We Forgive is a powerful documentary that follows two women struggling with reconciliation in Rwanda. As those convicted of lower-level crimes, who have shown remorse, have been released under a government initiative - murderers and victims are living side by side - in a culture still reeling from the genocide 14 years ago.

Laura Waters did an amazing job of relaying the struggle of forgiveness and how it goes beyond words to actions and to one's heart. I was moved deeply when I saw the film - and the questions it raised for me still haven't been answered to any satisfaction.

The film won the Gold prize at the Student Academy Awards on June 7th in Hollywood (picture 13 is Laura). Hopefully this film can do a lot more.

Below is an interview Laura did. If you have a chance to see this film please do, it's an aspect of a much larger discussion that is well over due.

Angela C. Wu: I thought the film was extraordinary as a documentation of an almost incomprehensible reality—not of the genocide but of the reconciliation. What struck you most when you went to Rwanda to film in June 2006?

Laura Waters Hinson: The brokenness of the murderers I met. It's very easy to want to view the murderers simplistically. I found so much complexity. In the film one of them says, "I didn't believe there could ever be deliverance for me." I thought I would go over there and hate the murderers but instead I felt compassion for them. One of the murderers said, "Paying people back for my sins is beyond comprehension." So I did what people aren't supposed to do in film—humanize the murderers.

I got the feeling that if you are in their shoes you would do the same thing. If we were taught our whole lives to hate these people, told that they were cockroaches, that they should be killed, we would be the same. These were often unemployed, impoverished people who were taught these things. Then they were presented with a choice of be killed if you do not kill, or kill and plunder.

The Rwandans I met in the reconciliation movement believe that all people are capable of evil, but because they are forgiven by God they, too, should forgive others. These Rwandans see reconciliation as mirroring God's love for them.

ACW: There is this incredible kernel of good now, but what happened was so incomprehensibly horrible. Even with forgiveness, with that reality, I think a lot of people would have trouble with the view that God, if God is good, could be in there at all. Do Rwandans have a sense of God's purpose in all of this?

LWH: The bishops (in the reconciliation movement) as well as the survivors believe that God saved them for a purpose. They felt that they had been saved from genocide for a purpose.

I have never heard a Rwandan say that God had a plan for the genocide. But in the end, from a terrible atrocity and genocide is coming a radical reconciliation. I always think of that biblical pattern of God taking the least of these, using the unlikeliest of characters, to carry out His plan—even with the Apostle Paul who as Saul instigated the murder of the early Christians.

To read more of the interview go here