In order to search for sponsored children, you need to upgrade your Flash Player. Click here. If you have Javascript disabled, please enable it now.

Rwandan Genocide 15 years later: Alice forgives

She survived the unthinkable, forgave her attackers, and now works with World Vision to bring peace and reconciliation to her country.

June 2009



Alice tells her story at a World Vision workshop, promoting forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.
Alice tells her story at a World Vision workshop, promoting forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.
Photo ©2009 Didier Habimana/World Vision

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.

Alice's story

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.

Read more.
Learn more about the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and World Visions efforts to bring healing and reconciliation to this country in the years since.

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.
Four days later, the interahamwe militia and soldiers attacked the church and brutally slaughtered approximately 5,000 men, women, and children, including many members of Alice’s extended family.

“[In the swamp,] we were many and were very terrified,” says Alice. “Children would go days without eating, and some were sinking deeper in the mud of the swamp and died. Two nieces of mine sank while escaping bullets and grenades of the soldiers.”

Militia raided the swamps on April 29. “Killers were fleeing, defeated at the Battle of Liberation. As they were passing by, they decided to slaughter the survivors hidden in the swamp,” says Alice. “They killed a lot of people that day, including my baby and my niece,” she adds, with tears in her eyes. After they attacked Alice, she was left for dead among the other victims.

When Alice came back to her senses, she saw her husband and a few other survivors.

“The first thing I asked was, ‘Where is my baby?’” Alice says. “As all people looked at me with mercy, I remembered what had happened.”

A week after the killings, RPF soldiers rescued the survivors and Alice was taken to the hospital, where she spent two months recovering.

Emmanuel repents

Pledge Now.
Your monthly gift will help World Vision provide relief and support for children affected by war and conflict around the world.

Eventually, Alice came face to face with one of her offenders: Emmanuel Ndayisaba. “I’m the one who cut her hand off and slashed her face,” Emmanuel confessed even before authorities identified him. He took full responsibility for his crimes. “I participated in the genocide, killing people,” he said. “With my own hands, I killed 14 people.”

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.

Taking the first step


Emmanuel was attending one of World Vision’s Healing, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation workshops when he met Alice for the first time since the attack.

“When I confronted Alice to ask forgiveness, she refused,” said Emmanuel. “It was very difficult to forgive me. I did everything to repent. I knelt, stood, cried — everything I could, but she was not forgiving me,” recalls Emmanuel.

Alice wrestled with Emmanuel’s request, but she wasn’t ready to forgive. “From 1994 to 2002, my life was very miserable. I was desperate, disappointed, poor, and traumatized,” says Alice.

Forgiveness

Emmanuel testifies about the power of forgiveness in his life at a World Vision workshop. Behind him is a quote from Alan Paton: When an injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.
Emmanuel testifies about the power of forgiveness in his life at a World Vision workshop. Behind him is a quote from Alan Paton: "When an injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive."
Photo ©2009 Didier Habimana/World Vision
“Emmanuel came to see me three times, asking forgiveness,” remembers Alice. “At first, I felt scared. I felt like I was losing my mind. I didn't know what to do. I just felt I was not able. Later on, I reviewed what I was taught in healing workshops, discussed the issue with my husband, and he encouraged me. I also realized that Emmanuel was really repenting, and I forgave him.”

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.

Learn more


>> 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.

Forward to a friend

Learn more

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.

 





World Vision
Phone: 1-888-511-6548
P.O. Box 9716
Federal Way,WA 98063-9716
© 2014 World Vision Inc.
World Vision, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All donations are tax deductible in full or in part.