Bishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as a representative to the recent Synod on Africa in Rome, shared his disappointment this week at the US Bishops' Fall meeting in Baltimore with the lack of coverage in the media of the work of the Synod.
As part of the effort to help undo this injustice I am sharing with you here the testimony of an African woman religious following the genocidal conflicts in Rwanda in 1994. Sister Genevieve Uwamariya spoke at the Synod on Africa in Rome which had as its theme "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."
The following is the Vatican translation of Sr Genevieve's testimony given in her native French.
"A large part of my family was killed while in our parish church. The sight of this building used to fill me with horror and turned my stomach, just like the encounter with the prisoners filled me with disgust and rage.
"It is in this mental state that something happened that would change my life and my relationships.
"On August 27th 1997 at 1 p.m., a group from the Catholic association of the “Ladies of Divine Mercy” led me to two prisons in the region of Kibuye, my birthplace. They went to prepare the prisoners for the Jubilee of 2000. They said: “If you have killed, you commit yourself to ask for forgiveness from the surviving victim, that way you can help him free himself of the burden/weight of vengeance, hatred and rancor. If you are a victim, you commit yourself to offer forgiveness to those who harmed you and thus you free them from the weight of their crime and the evil that is in them.”
"This message had an unexpected effect for me and in me....
"After that, one of the prisoners rose in tears, fell to his knees before me, loudly begging: 'Mercy'. I was petrified in recognizing a family friend who had grown and shared everything with us.
"He admitted having killed my father and told me the details of the death of my family. A feeling of pity and compassion invaded me: I picked him up, embraced him and told him in a tearful voice: 'You are and always will be my brother'.
"Then I felt a huge weight lift away from me... I had found internal peace and I thanked the person I was holding in my arms.
"To my great surprise, I heard him cry out: 'Justice can do its work and condemn me to death, now I am free!'
"I also wanted to cry out to who wanted to hear: 'Come see what freed me, you too can find internal peace'.
"From that moment on, my mission was to travel kilometers to bring mail to the prisoners asking for forgiveness from the survivors. Thus 500 letters were distributed; and I brought back mail with the answers of the survivors to the prisoners who had become my friends and my brothers... This allowed for meetings between the executioners and the victims....
"From this experience, I deduce that reconciliation is not so much wanting to bring together two persons or two groups in conflict. It is rather the re-establishment of each in love and allowing internal healing which leads to mutual liberation.
"And here is where the importance of the Church lies in our countries, since her mission is to offer the Word: a word that heals, liberates and reconciles."
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