What is it like to live in Rwanda and engage with traumatised persons who are searching for answers to the question, “How do we make sense of this mess and start to recover and rediscover a purpose for living?”
In From Genocide to Generosity, I consider a few of the challenges I faced in helping some Rwandans ask this question. Together, we discovered possible responses by observing what was happening in Rwanda and learning the value of listening to stories and looking for signs of hope and transformation.
Through mentoring and training, a small group of Rwandans with a passion for recovery gained confidence in their work as builders of peace. Victims and perpetrators began to process their pain together in three different workshops developed in Africa and run by Rwandans. Over time, many Rwandans began to emerge from the grip of genocide and to reclaim a purpose for their lives.
While many specialists from the western world denounced the idea as implausible if not impossible, the Rwandan government used a traditional Rwandan justice approach to bring thousands to justice, with the hope of restoring them to their communities. This grassroots process introduced a humane generosity on a scale never before seen in the history of the world.
Eventually, youth began to express their ideas for a better Rwanda. Working in small groups of male and female, Hutu and Tutsi, two thousand youth created powerful presentations about reconciliation and forgiveness, which they performed to diverse audiences.
As stories of Rwanda’s healing circulated around the world, citizens of other countries began to seek training and insight from Rwandans in change, peacebuilding, reconciliation and healing. In conclusion, readers are invited to consider how these stories of healing and forgiveness might impact our own lives and the rest of the world.
A good way to get an overview of From Genocide to Generosity is to listen “Haters to Healers: The Gift of John Steward” a 24 min interview by Rachael Kohn which was aired on Australian National radio on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Listen to the interview.
Here are responses I have received to the book:
John Steward’s book provides a powerful and moving account of how recovery after genocide is possible. He inspires us with the stories of Rwandans who have been able to face their past and find hope in the future as they discover the potential for forgiveness and healing.
Dr Wendy Lambourne, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney.
Rich with insight…how one country can sink so low, so quickly…How ethnic tensions can simmer and then explode, or rather, how easily a group (mostly male) can come under the domination of leaders to do the most vile deeds. But then, the role of HOPE, in bringing people out of the worst darkness. where they encounter healing and learn to forgive…and be forgiven. How extreme enemies can become family…through forgiveness and the desire to restore…reconcile.
Heather Jephcott, Poet and author of Open Hearts, Quiet streams, Indonesia.