Clerics and government officials have urged former Genocide convicts to act as role models, shun evil, and spearhead goodwill toward survivors.
The call was made, yesterday, during a public ceremony at which 52 Genocide perpetrators were forgiven and reconciled with survivors at Nyamata Parish in Bugesera District.
This followed a course for heart healing, asking for forgiveness and giving forgiveness which was started in July 2016.
Some 247 convicts undertook the course but the first group of 166 completed it and were reconciled with survivors on January 8.
This means that there are about 29 others yet to complete the due steps.
The Nyamata Parish head priest, Fr Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, said the Genocide perpetrators had to receive sacraments from the Church in a solemn manner after being reunited with God and the Church because they wronged the Tutsi, God and the wider Rwandan society.
They are also required to repent and shun evil to be born again and restore good relationship with God and the people.
“You should be like Saint Paul who said that he should increase by tenfold the kindness and service to the Church the level at which he once persecuted it such that he even had to die for it,” he said.
Fr Nsengiyumva said people should always choose right over evil, adding that the Church will offer support to achieve that goal.
Fr Nsengiyumva said there is still a long way to go in terms of forgiveness and reconciliation journey, given that the number of perpetrators of the Genocide against the Tutsi who have so far undertaken such journey are very few compared to all the perpetrators in Bugesera District.
He said the next phase of the six-month course starts next month.
Fr Ubald Rugirangoga, who initiated the reconciliation programme, said he was happy to see what he considered “sheep that had gone astray” now returning to the right path.
“When sheep go astray and damage people’s crops, it is the shepherd who is to blame,” he said, noting that clerics had failed in leading the sheep (Christians) away from evil, and that forgiven former convicts have a task to make others do the same and love their friends.
The vice-president of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, Xaverine Uwimana, said that the Tutsi were killed or tortured by their neighbours, classmates, those they used to share with, and other people who were supposed to protect or save them.
Such complexity made reconciliation complicated, she said, thanking the Church for its role in reconciliation process, and Genocide survivors for putting their suffering behind for the sake of unity.
Pierre Butoki, a former perpetrator from Central Buyenzi in Nyamata Parish, said he was a police officer from 1960 to 1973.
During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, he said, he was armed and participated in attacks at Ntarama Church and other places killing many Tutsi, including a cleric.
“I went through the heart-healing and forgiveness process and I was forgiven,” he said, expressing that offering forgiveness is not easy, and so is asking for forgiveness.
Among the Tutsi Butoki killed was the father of Angelique Mukabukizi, a survivor from Central Ntarama in Bugesera District.
“I now have a clear heart because I knew the person who killed my father and I forgave him,” Mukabukizi said, urging all the former perpetrators to move forward and get rid of inhuman behaviour by embracing love.