How would you respond if someone asked you to describe reconciliation? What sort of picture would you paint? Would you talk about forgiveness? Granting pardon? Showing mercy after wrongs were committed?
Or would you just point to these pictures taken in Africa?
In 1994, genocide broke out in the tiny African nation of Rwanda. Across almost 100 days, bloodthirsty gangs of Hutu tribesmen roamed the countryside savagely murdering members of the Tutsi tribe…even if they’d been lifelong friends, business associates, or neighbors. In that relatively short time span, almost one million men, women, and children lost their lives.
Twenty years have passed since the Rwandan brutality was broadcast across the airwaves. Though the small nation still bears the (literal) scars of its horrific past, it’s in a much better place than most would expect, thanks in large part to non-profit organizations like AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent) and their ongoing work towards reconciliation. AMI’s efforts involve an intense plan of months-long counseling for the victims and perpetrators of the violence, a formal request for forgiveness, an exchange of peace offerings, and then, a celebration.
Photographer Pieter Hugo captured the present relationships shared between killers and survivors. He titled his collection Portraits of Reconciliation because nothing else describes the photos more accurately. Granted, the portraits reveal different stages of reconciliation, but it’s no small act of God for two people to be photographed together when one of them had suffered so much by the hand of the other.
Here are just a few stories of the tremendous reconciliation God is bringing about in Rwandan hearts:
“He killed my father and three brothers. He did these killings with other people, but he came alone to me and asked for pardon. He and a group of other offenders who had been in prison helped me build a house with a covered roof. I was afraid of him — now I have granted him pardon, things have become normal, and in my mind I feel clear.”
“I burned her house. I attacked her in order to kill her and her children, but God protected them, and they escaped. When I was released from jail, if I saw her, I would run and hide. Then AMI started to provide us with trainings. I decided to ask her for forgiveness. To have good relationships with the person to whom you did evil deeds — we thank God.”
“I used to hate him. When he came to my house and knelt down before me and asked for forgiveness, I was moved by his sincerity. Now, if I cry for help, he comes to rescue me. When I face any issue, I call him.”
“He killed my child, then he came to ask me pardon. I immediately granted it to him because he did not do it by himself — he was haunted by the devil. I was pleased by the way he testified to the crime instead of keeping it in hiding, because it hurts if someone keeps hiding a crime he committed against you. Before, when I had not yet granted him pardon, he could not come close to me. I treated him like my enemy. But now, I would rather treat him like my own child.”
Imagine how good you will look in your own portrait of reconciliation when you face the past with the grace and humility of Jesus.
Click here for the online report.
Topics Illustrated Include:
(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)