Christine Wihangayika was only 5 when the Rwandan genocide began in 1994. She lived in Nyamagabe district with her parents and three siblings. Everyone in her family was killed, but she escaped with a family friend to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1997, she returned home when the government encouraged refugees to come back to Rwanda.
“Life was not easy for me,” she says. “I was very young, and I had no choice. I had to come back to this village. At that time, I hated everyone. I felt so bad to live in a place where my family was killed.”
A World Vision staff member, Assoumpta Uteimbabazi, a survivor herself, became an agent of healing, guiding Christine to participate in reconciliation sessions.
Sponsorship also helped Christine emerge from her shell of misery. She was connected with a U.S. sponsor, and she began volunteering at the World Vision office, transcribing information about children to keep their sponsors informed of their progress. “When World Vision started supporting me, bringing me close to them, hope was restored to me,” she says.
Assuompta was always there to guide her. “She was a loving person and a Christian,” says Christine. “All of that helped us to believe.”
But she wasn’t quite ready to forgive — until World Vision started a project in the village about cows and coffee. Christine joined a group called Good Coffee. At first, she was very quiet. But as they worked together, her heart began to shift. “I started loving all the other members of the cooperative,” she says. “I started looking at them as my brothers, my mothers, part of my family.”
One member was particularly kind to Christine — Emile Bizumuremyi, 27. He was moved by Christine’s situation. “I realized that she had no one to be close to her, talk to her, and encourage her. I took that initiative. That’s how love started between us.”
It was a love that could only happen between two people trained in reconciliation. Emile’s family were Hutus. His cousins and uncles had gone to prison.
Community members point to Christine and Emile as a glowing example of how reconciliation brought peace to their village. Their baby girl, Christella, is a miracle child, the perfect combination of them both.
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the summer 2014 issue of World Vision magazine. And the story gets better: Christine and Emile are expecting a baby next month. If he is a hoped-for boy, she will name him David. Christine prays that he will become a man after God’s own heart.