Forgiving Judas

The patient work of reconciliation.

Denise Uwimana
Sakina Denise Uwimana-Reinhardt was born to Rwandan immigrant parents in Burundi. She later moved to Rwanda, where she met her husband, Charles. When she was twenty-nine, she survived the Rwandan genocide of 1994 with her three sons; her husband was killed. After finding personal healing and reconciliation, she went on to found Iriba Shalom International, an organization that provides material and spiritual help to genocide survivors. She remarried and now lives with her husband, Dr. Wolfgang Reinhardt, in Kassel, Germany. Together they continue to work for healing in Rwanda.

The infamous genocide against the Tutsi of 1994 was not Rwanda’s first outbreak of “ethnic” violence. Fueled by Belgian colonists, who pulled out of the Central East African country in 1959, long-simmering resentments and competition for power between Hutu and Tutsi repeatedly broke into bloodshed. In this excerpt from her book From Red Earth, genocide survivor Denise Uwimana tells the story of Antoine Rutayisire, who was born in 1958 and lived through each of these periods.

“Gravel in your shoe will hinder you as much as boulders in your path. Besides the man who shot my father, I have to forgive the guy who shoves in front of me to take the last seat on the bus. Forgiving is a way of life.”

That’s how I first heard Dr. Antoine Rutayisire, a member of our Rwanda’s Unity and Reconciliation Commission, on the radio, in 2003. When he became a friend, a few years later, I was touched by his humility. He has equal respect for all people, no matter their rank or background.

As an evangelist in the late 1990s, Antoine visited prisons across Rwanda, where more than 120,000 men were serving time for their role in the genocide.

While speaking in a Kigali prison, Antoine noticed one inmate who seemed particularly agitated. When Antoine finished his talk, the man leapt to his feet.

“Are you saying Jesus’ blood can wash away all sins?” he probed. He was trembling.

“Yes,” Antoine replied.

“Then let me tell you what I did.”

Continue reading at Plough Quarterly.