Editor’s note: The following story is Alice’s account of how she survived the violent Rwandan Genocide. Due to the graphic content of her story, reader discretion is advised.
“I was holding my 9-month-old baby girl, when a mob of soldiers and interahamwe militias came and surrounded the swamp where I was hidden,” recalls Alice, 40. She is a Tutsi and a survivor of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide in which approximately 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were brutally killed by extremist militia groups.
“They were armed with guns, machetes, swords, and clubs. They saw me and approached. One of them took my baby out of my hands and [killed her],” says Alice. Then, a man named Emmanuel cut off Alice’s hand and slashed her face. “Others hit me with nail-studded clubs, and I lost consciousness.”
Over the course of 100 days, Alice and millions of Rwandans saw their neighbors killing their relatives, their priests and pastors abandoning and betraying them, police and army soldiers shooting at them, nations around the world observing without action, and their leaders plotting against them.
Fifteen years after the genocide, Alice’s memories are still fresh; she has a scar on her jaw and is missing a hand. However, there is something extraordinary about this soft-spoken woman: With the help of World Vision reconciliation workshops, she found the strength to forgive Emmanuel and the men who killed her baby. In fact, Alice lost 100 members of her extended family, and yet she forgave.
At the age of 14, Alice was refused access to public education because of her Tutsi background. Her father was killed in 1991, accused of being a political traitor. Then in 1992, two of her brothers were killed on their way to join the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), an opposition group.Alice married and gave birth to a daughter. In April 1994, they heard that Tutsis were being hunted and treated as “cockroaches meant to die.” They tried to take refuge at a large Catholic church, hoping the killers would not attack a “house of God,” but the church was already crammed with people seeking refuge, so Alice’s family and thousands of others hid in swamps around the Akagera River.
After the genocide, Emmanuel’s Christian faith convicted him of his wrongdoing. “Before the 1994 genocide, I was a member of a church choir, yet I was taught from my family to hate Tutsis,” he says. “After being involved in the killings, I felt bad in my heart and I said, ‘This would not have happened if I was really a good servant of God.’ That’s why I repented.”
The cries and faces of those he killed haunted Emmanuel. He reported himself to the authorities and pleaded guilty. He asked authorities to punish him, and he served six years in prison for his role in the genocide.
It’s been more than six years since Alice forgave Emmanuel. Now, both preach reconciliation in their community and wherever they’re invited.
“We work together, we are part of that association, and we love one another,” says Emmanuel.
They are both members of the Ukuri Kuganze Association (meaning, ‘truth must prevail’). This association is made of released prisoners, survivors, and people whose relatives or friends are still in jail because of the genocide. World Vision works closely with Ukuri Kuganze, offering training sessions that promote healing, reconciliation, and unity in communities.
At workshops and conferences, both Emmanuel and Alice teach, “Forgiveness and repentance benefit both the offender and the victim.”
Alice’s life has changed, and her outlook is now hopeful. After forgiving Emmanuel, Alice and her husband were able to conceive again, and they now have five children. On a regular basis, Alice serves as a source of hope, love, and courage in her community, checking in on sponsored children as a volunteer for World Vision.
>> Sponsor a child in Rwanda. Your love and support for a child in need will provide him or her with physical, emotional, and spiritual nurture, as well as hope for a brighter future.
>> Give monthly to help provide relief and support for children affected by war and conflict around the world. Your monthly gift will help provide things like food, clean water, health care, protection, trauma counseling, and more for these vulnerable children.
|Read more about the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 and World Vision's efforts to bring healing and reconciliation to this country in the years since.|
Two ways you can help
|Sponsor a child in Rwanda. Your love and support for a child in need will provide him or her with physical, emotional, and spiritual nurture, as well as hope for a brighter future.|
Give monthly to help provide relief and support for children affected by war and conflict around the world. Your monthly gift will help provide things like food, clean water, health care, protection, trauma counseling, and more for these vulnerable children.