I was eagerly looking forward to my visit to Rwanda, an East African nation, which is not only known as a “land of thousand hills” for its natural beauty but also referred to as “Singapore of Africa” for its cleanliness. I had also heard about the Genocide which happened in 1994 but did not have details on them. Thought it was another civil war which we had been seen in many countries and hence did not give much attention to it.
I landed in Kigali the capital of Rwanda from Kampala (capital of Uganda) with my friend Mr. Raman and was looking forward to my training sessions. I was greeted by the immigration staff in French and the Country Manager of my client was waiting to ferry us across to the Hotel in Kigali. He showed us the gardens in the roadside and how the Chinese who are doing a magnificent job in building world class infrastructure across Kigali and I was amazed by the cleanliness of the city.
He then directed me to see a monument and said, “It’s a pity that you don’t have time or else you should visit this place since this was the church where most people were killed during the genocide. He added more than million human beings were butchered in the year 1994”. I paused for a while and retorted back, “A million people killed: how, why and what?” He said, “Sreeram, its past on which I don’t want to speak further and we have moved on and you would see & know for you”.
I knew I was missing something monumental but his words and attitude puzzled me quite a bit, as I had no indication of the depth of what he had hinted at and I didn’t have to wait for it too long. What a revelation it turned out to be and how it opened my eyes to the enormous power of the glorious human trait of forgiveness.
He first took us to the place where the new retail hyper market of my client was coming up and he also made us realize that Rwanda is a booming economy which is going to raise its head as an emerging economic hub in Sub Saharan Africa.
I checked in to the Serena Hotel and I had a speaking assignment on “Managing Change & Sustaining Growth” to all the HOD’s of the same Hotel and the lecture was an extraordinary success.
The moment of truth was about to happen.
I walked into the backyard of the store to address 50% of the staff (rest would come the next day morning) so that others could serve the customers and I began my address. People listened with rapt attention and staffs who were also serving as a Pastor came forward to translate some of my content to the local language to ensure that everyone understands. It was all done.
But something was yet to be done.
I was walking across the store the next day morning with the Country Manager when he escorted me to an extraordinary girl of great mental fortitude who was putting stocks in the racks and there was a guy who was giving her the stocks. What he told me stunned me!
He narrated, “This guy is the one who killed her father & her little son” and she is working with him with smiles all around. Can you imagine this is in any other country?”
Then he showed me a girl who was a rape victim who chooses to live life than to commit suicide since she had seen enough death around her. She said even if I were to work with guys who orchestrated the rape on me it is they who should feel guilty and not me.
(To know more about the Rwanda Genocide: please Google it)
It was nerve chilling experience for me and I gathered all the strength to know the facts of this nation called Rwanda. In the next few hours I learnt that almost a million people had been killed in a war between two tribes that too not in Old Stone Age but as recent as in 1994 due to man made fighting between the two tribes. Rapes were common and churches which were supposed to be places of worship were turned into battle fields & cremation grounds. Friendships of years and close relationships had no merit. What was uppermost in the minds of these people were to kill as many as they can, no matter who the person was, perhaps to escape being killed in the melee. It was clear that reason and the bond of friendships/relationships had abdicated. Mindless killing was the name of the game that was being played in the land of Rwanda.
Today it represents a different nation, people have understood that what had happened cannot be undone and life must go on. People have realized their blunders (if I am allowed to call) cannot be held as a hostage to their future.
The people of Rwanda have given a decent burial to the motto of revenge and have wholeheartedly embraced the inimitable human ideal of “forgiveness”. Who all and whatever brought about this extraordinary transformation in the outlook of these people may offer worthwhile lessons for the rest of the world community. What provided me with the greatest satisfaction in this trip is the changed atmosphere prevailing there with peace and harmony reigning and aiding development and a sense of participation in nation building among the populace. This entire attitude of people of Rwanda transformed me to become a better human being.
Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. I think people of Rwanda have realized this truth and are living by what Mahatma had said.
When I see people talk with vengeance, revenge as their motive and hatred in their hearts I wish to cry out loud, “there is a better way and that is the way people of Rwanda have adopted and living”.
I wish to bring the Rwandans example when I see siblings & close friends fight over petty issues and remain incommunicado for years and I wish to urge them, “raise beyond petty issues as the people of this world are facing much, much bigger issues than what you and me are encountering.”
Folks this is truth:
- Hate the sin and Love the Sinner (People in Rwanda practice & live by it every second of their life)
- If you seek harmony, learn to live in harmony no matter what is the past.
- If human beings can forgive human beings for having killed their most near and dear ones, what are we fighting about? Drop the hatred and revenge from your heart.
- Forgive, Forgive & Forgive – Everyone makes blunders.
- A country is built on forgiveness as its foundation. Can we build an organization and a family out of forgiveness and love?
- Rise above petty attitudes. To err is human and to forgive is divine.
Forgive me if I have hurt you in any way.