Building Reconciliation

wr4Pacifique uses a machete to chop wood to stoke the fire for lunch while a few feet away the man who killed her brother and sister thrusts a shovel into wet cement being used to finish construction of her house. This is what reconciliation looks like for many villagers in Rwanda after the genocide here in 1994. Theosphore admits to being in the group that killed Pacifique's family. Now he plays with Pacifique's 2 year-old daughter and jokes around with her like old friends.

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The 22 year-old woman looks more like a tall, slim teenager than a mother raising 3 children. Pacifique credits REACH with this seemingly impossible transformation that has allowed her to tolerate seeing her family's killer each day for months.

REACH (Reconciliation, Evangelism And, Christian Healing) in Rwanda coordinates seminars where participants learn about the history of the Rwandan genocide, the role of the church in the genocide, and the possibility of asking for forgiveness and accepting apologies from killers. For people like Pacifique living in poverty in a remote village in eastern Rwanda it is clear, there is little choice.IMG_3105

REACH pays for the supplies and workers to build homes for genocide survivors like Pacifique. They have helped to build dozens of houses in the last 2 years in the Kirehe district. Across the country 1,000 people participate in continuing efforts to build reconciliation through construction projects, singing and dance groups, and a soccer league.

While Theosphore spreads cement around windows, Pacifique is already living in the unfinished house sharing a twin bed with her husband. There is no running water, electricity or latrine. When the house is finished in two weeks the only improvement will be a freshly dug latrine. Pacifique says she had to get out of her aunt's house because her only surviving relative was unwilling to help feed her 2 year-old daughter. Pacifique says, "the man she lives with," helped pull her out of that situation by paying for her meals at a restaurant for 3 months. Pacifique encouraged him to pay for food so she could cook for him instead. Then they began living together.

Theosphore is a father of three living with his wife, 1 mile from Pacifique's house. He says he killed because the government desensitized people to kill. He says he has apologized because the government sensitized people to confess their crimes. He says, "If the government asked people to kill again, I would die or be killed. I could not kill again."

Pacifique says the REACH seminars gave her the ability to reconcile with Theosphore. She plans to go back to school soon. Her outlook for the future is optimistic, "We are reconciling and people are happy, there are few problems."

On this day her only concern seems to be peeling cassava so that she, her children and the reformed killers can eat lunch together underneath her new blindingly shiny sheet-metal roof.

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