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Easter and Rwanda

By Allison Kooser

When I think about Easter, I think about "re". Rebirth. Restoration. Reconciliation.  Redemption. And I think about where I have seen these beautiful things in action.

I fell in love with East Africa while working in Rwanda in 2011. Beyond the rolling hills and  picturesque landscapes, the true beauty of Rwanda was in the people. Wide, bright smiles  greet you everywhere you go and sweet children hold your hand as you walk down the  street. It’s a country that has the sneaky ability to totally and completely capture your heart. 

Most importantly, I have never experienced such an incredible picture of restoration and  reconciliation as I did in Rwanda.

In 1994, the country was ravaged by genocide. Split along the lines of people groups,  Rwanda broke into unprecedented violence following the assassination of their active leader  on April 6, 1994. What followed was unimaginable. Neighbors killed neighbors and friends  killed friends. Refugees fled the country. Families hid in churches, only to be met by militia  and slaughtered. Radio programs encouraged people to kill their neighbors. Nearly a million  people died in 100 days.

As I wrote in my journal after visiting the shallow mass grave at the sight of one particular  massacre, “My heart hurts and my head cannot begin to understand.” 

Less than 20 years later, I experienced peace in Rwanda. More than that, I experienced  forgiveness. I met a woman living next door to the man that killed her husband. I heard  stories of unimaginable pain and suffering, followed by grace and release. I witnessed a  broken place being healed from the inside out.

I cannot claim to know why Rwanda has been able to experience restoration and  reconciliation. I imagine it has something to do with necessity – being willing to do the hard  work of forgiveness because there is simply nowhere left to turn. What I do know is  that I’m thankful. Thankful for the lessons that Rwanda taught me, and thankful for the country that is  now becoming a leader in Africa. I’m thankful to work for Opportunity – an organization who  believes in and invests in this redemptive process by creating jobs for incredible,  hardworking survivors.

One such hero is Beathe. Watch her story  – learn her story. She inspires me and, this Easter  season, reminds me that reconciliation is possible.

Rwanda broke my heart and and then filled it right back up again. It made me fall in love with  East Africa. It taught me so much about peace and justice and forgiveness and love. And it’s  a story that everyone needs to know.

Take a minute and share this article with a friend! 

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