07 July, 2009


Our trip to Ruhengeri was amazing. We went to premiere the As We Forgive film for the students. If you've seen the film (if you haven't - order it now!!) you know that one of the characters is Joy. At the time she was fifteen and spoke about losing her family in the genocide. Now she is 18, and will be done with her education in 2 years. She hopes to go to university after that.

Joy was our primary contact at Sonrise. When we got there we were amazed to find out she had organized a pre-program for the viewing, in order to get the students ready to see the film. There was a moment of silence for those who will killed in the genocide, then one of the students read a very moving (I'm supposing since it was in Kinyarwandan and I am not yet fluent) poem. Then the "Never Again" club did a skit. In it they told a story of a girl who hid in the bushes during the genocide. The RPF found her as they moved through the country and took her to safety. Skip to present day, the girl is listening to a preacher talk about the need to forgive the perpetrators. She is moved and meets those who killed her family. In the process, they agree to show her where they buried the remains of her family. They go. She sees what is left of the bodies and cries out, in that moment there is a decision - she can either fall into hatred again - and refuse to forgive the men who butchered her loved ones or she can choose to continue to forgive. She realizes that holding onto the grudge does nothing, she knows the killers are truly repentant and sorry for their actions, and while it is hard she says, "I forgive you."

While I couldn't understand one word that was spoken during this entire skit, I was moved. Forgiveness is in someways not a choice. The pastor who came with us to speak to the kids said later that God has forgiven us so much - so how can we refuse to forgive someone else? If God, who made the perpetrators, can forgive them - how can we not? And it's true. I am beginning to see more and more the pride that affects so many of our decisions. How often do I not forgive or, more essentially, refuse to turn the other cheek because of my pride? I can't be nice and loving to those who annoy/hurt me because it will be seen as weakness, give them the upper hand. Why should I be nice to this person when they drive me insane? So I instead give the cold shoulder, the rolling of the eyes, the indifference. I turn them into the other and somehow place myself above them.

How can I love those who annoy me? By remembering that He did too. Once I have the whole story I will write about this more fully with a tangible example. But you love those people by loving those people. You do it by doing it. You turn the other cheek by not considering yourself or your pride or what it's costing you. You do it because He did it first and commands us to do it too. You do it in His strength.

So, back to Joy. Her name suits her so well. She is a joy. Her smile - wow! - could light up the darkest night. I think she was spared to be a joy to others. I felt, in an instant, like her best friend - she exuded calming peace and you can see by watching her face and the light in her eyes that she practices what she preaches. She has gone through the struggle of forgiveness - she has cried and had it out before the Lord - and is now living in the peace that battle brings.

We showed the movie and the room was silent. I have seen the movie in English but this time it played in Kinyarwandan - and you could tell the students were processing. AWF has been told multiple times that the film starts a discussion many are afraid to have. It discusses things that aren't discussed, it helps people start the dialogue of  forgiveness.

For one of the students whose mother was killed in the genocide the film was a turning point. His father had refused he and his siblings from saying her name and never spoke of her again. But now the son wants to talk to his dad about the need to face the demons of the genocide. He said he will start the discussion when he goes home on holiday and encouraged the crew to keep showing the film.

God can do great things when you trust Him and walk with Him. What started as a MA thesis film project is now changing lives in the US and in Rwanda. The film could be shown in Uganda, the Congo, Sri Lanka or Cambodia and have such an impact.