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Murderers In the Neighborhood

by | Apr 19, 2012 | Africa, Mission Trips | 0 comments

How would you feel if a recently released murderer moved into your town? Now what if he was the same murderer responsible for killing your entire family in front of your eyes? What if he’s deeply sorrowful about his former actions and has repented before God? What if he seeks your forgiveness as well? Could you do it? Could you forgive this man who killed your entire family and many others? Could you live and work within a few miles of him and look past his terrible sin?

This is the real life story of thousands of people living in Rwanda today. In my last post, I gave you a timeline of events during Rwanda’s bloody history. (If you haven’t read it yet, you should check it out and educate yo’self!) In 2003, the Rwandan president released 60,000 murderers to alleviate the dangerously overcrowded prisons. Prisons were holding 4 times the number of inmates they were designed to hold, and conditions were growing inhumane. So he made a tough choice – the choice to set murderers free.

One of the people in the book As We Forgive is a pastor. He had always preached a message of love, saying that the hatred between the Tutsis and the Hutus had to stop. Then his family, friends, and neighbors were murdered. They (about 45 people in all) were captured and driven out to a field. Several men with machetes were waiting. While some of the men dragged the women into the brush to rape them, others began the task of slaughtering the Tutsis. The pastor watched his wife, siblings, nieces, and nephews die a horrible death. He watched a man cut the arm of off his 5 year old son. Then suddenly a group of them tried to escape. The pastor scooped up his bleeding son and ran. His son died in the woods due to blood loss.

That pastor had to face the reality of forgiveness like neither you nor I have ever had to encounter. If he truly believed the Bible and all it had to say about God’s grace, then he knew he had to forgive these men. So he did. He started a ministry to the prisons. He visited those in jail and told them about Jesus, and that no matter how terrible their sins, God could and would forgive them, if only they seek Him. He even visited the same man who killed his family. He shook his hand, and right then and there, forgave him. Just like that. Isn’t that incredible? This man, as well as dozens of others, came to know the unending love of Jesus through this pastor’s efforts.

Once the prisoners were released (about 10 years after they had first been imprisoned), this pastor made it his duty to help them re-enter society. He helped them get jobs and helped them seek out those whom they had wronged and ask for forgiveness. He became a bridge between the victims and the killers. Thousands of people in Rwanda are affronted every day with killers. But in order to progress and to not devolve again into violence, they must forgive. They don’t have much choice.

Doesn’t that put things in perspective? I mean if people can forgive these atrocities, can’t we forgive the rude co-worker? The inconsiderate boss? The selfish spouse? I hope we can. I hope we do.