IN APRIL next year, just as has been happening over the last 19 years, Rwanda is going to go through another ritual known as commemoration period. This is a time the country remembers the brutal violence that was visited on the Tutsi.
But even as the country remembers, the leadership and a number of people have all along preached forgiveness and reconciliation, though there are also some voices that have consistently called for retributive justice. Why forgive?
Forgiveness has been a tricky issue even to even some staunch Christians. There are a number of pastors, priests, preachers who have not forgiven those who have wronged them in one way or the other despite the fact that there are many verses in the bible that clearly talks about the virtue of forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 says: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Thus, the question is: why do people, even Christians find it hard to forgive when even Jesus himself forgave those who crucified him as documented in Luke 23:34. “Forgive them Father for they don’t know what they are doing?”
According to Pastor James Kalinda of Redeemed Gospel Church, Kicukiro, “This answer by Jesus of forgiving somebody seventy-seven times is a clear testimony that forgiveness is not easy for human beings.
In his book, Forgive and Forget, Lewis B. Smedes writes, “When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life. You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself.”
Mary Fairchild in Religion and Spirituality says: “We will know the power of forgiveness is complete after experiencing the power coming as a result of forgiving. We are the ones who suffer most when we choose not to forgive. When we do forgive, the Lord sets our hearts free from the anger, bitterness, and resentment and hurt that previously imprisoned us.”
What if the person we need to forgive is not a believer?
Jean-Paul Samputu, 2003 Kora award winner in the traditional music category says that it was, at first hard forgiving the person who killed his father during the infamous genocide against the Tutsi.
“This is a person I grew up with. He was my friend. But when the genocide was over and I discovered that he was the person who killed my father, I was first in a murderous rage and I could have dispatched him upstairs to be forgiven by his Creator. But later, I came to realize that anger and resentment was pushing me to oblivion. I had to forgive a person who had tormented me the whole of my life. Right now, I feel liberated. We are friends up to now,” says Samputu.
But there are other people who have contrary views about the issue of forgiveness as is in the bible. “When somebody kills my mother, sister or even sleeps with my wife, I will not find it in my heart to forgive him. I will make sure it’s an eye for an eye,” says Vincent Habimana of Remera.