Recently, I had the honor of visiting the beautiful country of Rwanda for the first time in my life. This country has a unique history that I was able to experience being there physically. As you may know, Rwanda experienced a genocide in 1994 against the Tutsi people. More powerful than the genocide was the power of forgiveness that bulldozed the way for peace and unity like I have never seen before. When I think of Rwanda, I think of a country that is a prototype for a type of unity that is divine in nature.
One of the most memorable things for me was having the honor of visiting a mass grave to leave flowers and pay respect to the lives lost. It was a very sobering experience that left me speechless. So many like you and I had their lives taken prematurely and unjustly and their families destroyed. A spirit of division and death had turned loose in this place so much so that neighbors had turned against neighbors and priests against parishioners.
This country has experienced tremendous loss and yet it is such a peaceful place. I’ve been to different parts of Africa and one of the most striking things about Rwanda, specifically in Kigali, is how clean it is. I asked our driver about this, and she said something so remarkable, “When we got peace, our hearts became clean. So, we started to clean.” They have cultivated a culture that cleans and cares for their cities as a result of the peacemaking that has taken place. It flowed from the inside out.
How did peace invade a country? How were the eyes of enemies healed? How did they receive heaven’s eyes?
I propose that we are witnesses to the testimony that forgiveness can heal an entire nation by shifting the perspective of the hearts of its citizens. Forgiveness will clear your eyes and lift the heaviness of your soul. This is the inheritance of every nation on earth.
I had the privilege of meeting Father Ubald of Cyangugu at a conference in 2020 in the USA. Fr. Ubald was a modern-day hero that paved a way for peace by walking in the ways of Jesus in Rwanda. At the conference, he asked several of the speakers to come to His country to impart God’s love to his people. Sadly, he passed away last year but I wanted to keep my word to this precious brother in Christ and decided to travel to Rwanda with a small group of people. I didn’t know that honoring his request would impact my life so significantly.
Fr. Ubald was a Catholic Priest for 36 ½ years in the Cyangugu Diocese of Southeastern Rwanda. He was truly a man of honor. During the 1994 genocide, he lost 80 family members and over 45,000 parishioners. He fled the country and ended up in Belgium for 3 months where he mourned for his country crying every day. When he fled, he made a promise to his Bishop to return to bring healing to his people.
Jesus spoke to Fr. Ubald releasing him from his grieving with the words “Ubald, take up your cross.” The fruit of his obedience resulted in many physical healings wherever he went. He preached forgiveness and reconciliation to his beloved people. He was called on by the government of Rwanda to influence the rebuilding process on a national level. Fr. Ubald even made arrangements to take care of the children of the man that murdered his mother. He did not just preach the message of reconciliation; he lived it and his actions had a ripple effect throughout the nation.
The people of Rwanda are no longer the Hutus and the Tutsis; a divided people. They view themselves as one, united people. They teach us what can happen when we set aside our differences and forgive those who have offended us even to the point of trauma – on the deepest level.
This trip will forever leave a mark on my heart. It reinforced in me a desire to learn from history and to challenge people to do the same. A polarized people can lead to destruction, but a forgiving people can lead to healing and restoration. May we learn the effects of love and forgiveness and honor the lives of those lost by choosing the way of love today. May the Body of Christ walk as ambassadors of love and peace to the nations.