Immaculée lost all of her relatives. Vianney was a perpetrator in the genocide against the Tutsis. Together they are proof of just how valuable this reconciliation programme has been.
Immaculée, lost all of her relatives in the genocide and Vianney, was a perpetrator in the genocide. They are now friends thanks to the reconciliation programme. Photo: Josephine Lamb, Trócaire
As part of the national move towards unity and reconciliation, Trócaire's partner in Rwanda, the Commission for Justice and Peace, helps to bring together survivors and perpetrators of the genocide, to build lasting reconciliation between them.
Immaculée, now 54, lost all of her relatives including her husband and three children. Vianney, aged 60, was a perpetrator in the genocide against the Tutsis. Together they are proof of just how valuable this reconciliation programme has been.
Both were in very dark places trying to cope in the aftermath of the genocide. "I lost hope in life for long time," Immaculée said.
Vianney too was struggling. "For me, it has been a long journey," he said. "At a time, I did consider suicide because I couldn't bear to look back at what I had done," he said.
Along with prayer and religion, it was the Commission for Justice and Peace that changed their lives. Around 10 years ago, Immaculée helped to form her local group.
"The Commission noticed that there were open social conflicts between perpetrators and survivors, so they approached us to see if something could be done," she explained.
"At the start I couldn't understand how I would ever be able to tell others and talk about what had happened to me. But when I joined, I then realised that both survivors and perpetrators were traumatised in one way or another."
It was at this time that Immaculée had also turned to God. She began attending the same church as Vianney - a neighbour and family friend of Immaculée's before the genocide. But she now suspected he had killed some of her family members, including her nine year old son.
Desperate for forgiveness and noticing that Immaculée was beginning to change after joining the peace and reconciliation group, Vianney wondered if she might consider talking to him.
"One of the strategies I used, was to start to see if I could sit near her in the church. One day one of the readings was about how love should prevail over hatred. I decided then that I would do something."
When Vianney approached Immaculée, she listened to him, and she believes that prayer gave her the strength to do so.
"I would say that Prayer is so powerful. After praying, I became a different person. When he talked to me [that day] about love versus hatred - that is how the whole journey really started."
Vianney confessed to her that he had killed two of her cousins but assured her he was not the person who killed her son.
"To tell you the truth - I wasn't immediately convinced - I was still suspecting him - but as the journey continued I believed he didn't kill my child."
Click here to read Immaculée's survivor story: www.trocaire.org/news/rwanda-25-years-survivors-story
Click here to read Vianney's story: www.trocaire.org/news/rwanda-25-years-perpetrators-perspective
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