The concept of forgiveness has begun to be increasingly associated with highly secular post conflict reconstruction and may be one of the least understood but yet potentially necessary acts required for a society to fully break a cycle of hatred.
Given that the most horrendous acts of spiritual, emotional, and physical violence have taken place between the same persons attempting to rebuild a society after conflict, it is logical to ask how former enemies find a way to live together once again.
After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda’s Government embarked on bringing reconciliation and unity among its people. Tutsis understood the pain they went through and are forgiving the Hutus.
According to David Baguma, 25 years, a law student at the Independent University of Kigali (ULK), true forgiveness is a complex and prolonged evolutionary process but without it people remain locked in the value systems that produced the conflict.
“The victims of those atrocities have to find the space in their hearts to forgive those who victimized them, even though the pain and suffering will never disappear,” Baguma said.
Clare Mukakalisa, 40 years is an Entrepreneur who explains that forgiving is just as important as apologizing. She argues that any society that wishes to put its struggles behind and create a more peaceful and cooperative future has to embrace forgiveness.
“In Rwanda forgiveness has been successful and people are living in harmony as Rwandans and this shows how forgiving is vital in a post conflict society,” Mukakalisa explains.
Forgiveness in a society is enactment that belongs entirely to the offended and is a courageous and powerful expression of unconditional acceptance and love that can be seen as an attempt to stop the transfer of hate from one generation to the next.
Without apology and forgiveness, people remain locked in the value systems that produced the conflict. Therefore, little progress beyond a ceasefire can be made.
Jean Pierre Dusenge, 35 years is a Community Development Lecturer at Université Laïque Adventiste de Kigali (UNILAK) who says that, “forgiving is probably the only effective process which people assume to be subordinate to the will and it contributes a lot in bonding the relationship between people who were once enemies.
“When we forgive others, we should not feel that we are just doing somebody else a favour; through forgiveness we help ourselves immensely,” Dusenge states.
Dusenge mentions that through forgiveness people learn to appreciate the good qualities of others and become aware of their extended reality.
Forgiveness supports a climate for reconciliation and healing. The capacity for forgiveness lies within each individual that arguably influences the long term success of these efforts.