practising forgiveness in Rwanda 1

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHThis week marks the twentieth anniversary of the start of 100 days of civil war in Rwanda.  The ‘enemies’ had been neighbours, friends and community members. In that 100-day genocide, 1 million people were killed, 2 million were internally displaced and 1 million fled into neighbouring countries – all of this tragedy and devastation in a total population of little more than 7 million people. 

How does a country recover?

How do people rebuild their lives?

The people of Rwanda chose an extraordinary escape route – forgiveness. Whilst government and international courts dealt with the leaders of the genocide, the local people ‘judged’ those offenders within the local communities. And overwhelmingly they chose forgiveness, truth and restoration over punishment and retribution.  Local ‘Gacaca’ courts returned offenders to their homes and communities; out of prisons and back to the people and settings where it all started.

When I heard about this process and the stories that emerged, it took my breath away. How do you forgive people (often friends not strangers) who have endangered, raped or even killed your family members? It seems mad, unwarranted and contrary to the human condition.

And it is!


When I commented to a local community leader in Rwanda about the remarkable capacity of the people to forgive, he looked at me both a little confused and saddened by my understanding,

‘Please do not be misled. We have not yet forgiven. We are simply practising forgiveness with the full expectation with that one day we really will forgive.’

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About Kelley

Kelley is a speaker, author, overseas aid worker and perpetual student. She is passionate about women and gender issues, both in the local and international context, which underpins her enthusiasm for kinwomen and its contribution to women ‘living their finest life’. In 2014 Kelley completed a Masters in International and Community Development before establishing The Foxglove Project. Foxglove is a registered charity focused on supporting international development projects that are sustainable and driven by indigenous leadership. Kelley’s paid work requires her to travel extensively to evaluate and support projects supported by Australian funds. This experience and networking enables Foxglove to partner with outstanding overseas agencies delivering real opportunities for the poor and vulnerable to lead independent self-determined lives. Kelley combines these passions with a love of family and faith. Across more than 30 years of marriage, Kelley and her husband have worked through many of the challenges of building a relationship while raising three sons. Their boys have now finished high school changing the dynamics of family life and relationships. One of her great joys is sharing parenting lessons and learning from good and bad (sometimes disastrous) experiences. She uses humour and common sense to talk about the everyday challenges facing parents in today’s context.

One thought on “practising forgiveness in Rwanda

  • Elaine Fraser

    Great blog Kelley. I love the quote: ‘Please do not be misled. We have not yet forgiven. We are simply practising forgiveness with the full expectation with that one day we really will forgive.’

    Wow! That is amazing. A lesson for us all.

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