Session 8: practice of forgiveness

Practice of forgiveness

From the back cover of the book: Is this healing and change only for Rwandans? The personal stories make us ponder: can I really still say I could never forgive?


NOTE: the readings referred to throughout this study are from John Steward’s book “From Genocide to Generosity.” It’s available in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon



To prepare for this session, read the thoughts of Annie and Munyeli pages 130-133.


Step 1

Read our agreements to feel safe and free.


Step 2

Group sharing. How am I? What aspect in the understanding of forgiveness is helping me?

Why was this particular aspect helpful for me?

What touched me from the readings to prepare for this session?


Step 3

Describing Forgiveness.

a. Working alone, write a short description of forgiveness for a child or create a picture to explain the concept.

b. Share back in the group (no discussion).

c. Allocate one of the following seven readings to each person (read silently).

– The top paragraph of page 110 or 114 or 130.

– The top half of page 131 or 113.

– The bottom half of page 126 or 146.

d. After a few minutes each one describes ‘What my reading conveys about forgiveness is…’


Step 4

Discuss in the group: What makes it difficult for me to forgive myself? What would make it possible?

When I can forgive myself, what happens in me?


Step 5

Apology: no-one has apologized to Michael Lapsley (page 98,  ‘In reflecting on…’), and he still does not know who sent the letter bomb to maim him. Read other sections of apologies on p. 65 (top half), p. 71 (bottom half), p. 114 (top half), p. 123 (top half).

– What is the value of apologizing?

– Why is it hard for me to apologize?

– What could happen in me when/if I do apologize?


Step 6

Watch these two videos of Jean-Paul Samputu telling his story.





Step 7

Forgiving: what light does Samputu offer on the practice of forgiveness?

What encourages me from his example?


Step 8 

Reflection: What have I gained from this session?

What am I feeling now?

Is there an action I need to consider?

To whom do I need to speak and what will I say?

What will I discuss with my support/mentor?


Step 9

Preparation for the next session: Read the thoughts of Munyeli on pages 109 -111; about Gacaca on pages 118 -119; and Nsabiyera on page 84 – bottom half. What appeals to me from these readings about justice?


Step 10

Watch these two short videos.






A summary of Jean-Paul Samputu’s story

A well-known and popular Rwandan singer.

Was sent out of the country by his father in 1990.

Lost his parents, 3 brothers and a sister in 1994.

Found out that his boyhood friend Vincent had killed his father.

Jean Paul wanted to get revenge.

Went through 8 years of self-destruction, using alcohol and strong drugs.

‘I lost my mind.’

‘A singer needs joy – I stopped singing.’

Was full of anger and bitterness. ‘I wanted to kill him, but it was killing me.’

Sought help of all kinds, including from witchdoctors.

Took stronger drugs hoping to die.

Friends gathered to support him because they expected he was near the end.

They took him to a prayer mountain in Uganda.

As his friends prayed, Samputu heard: You will not die. You need to forgive.

Spent 3 months in that place – the message was repeated with new insights: Forgiveness is for you, not the offender. Forgiveness is to release you from your prison. We become what we do not forgive. Your healing is in your hands. 

He stopped the drugs and the drinking, but remained bitter – ‘until I said “yes” to the voice. Nothing else has worked… let me just try.’

‘The minute I said “yes” I was delivered’.

Samputu regained his voice and joy; he won three big music awards.

He returned to Rwanda 2008; he went to the gacaca traditional tribunal and announced ‘I have forgiven Vincent for killing my father’.

He embraced Vincent and they ate together.

He also forgave two of the accomplices (Eugene and Musoni).

At first Vincent suspected it was a political game; he could not believe that a Tutsi would forgive him. Vincent’s wife pointed out that Samputu was acting out of his faith and Vincent needed to accept it as genuine.

Vincent explained that he was forced to kill because that was ‘the law of genocide’: the closest neighbor must finish the killing’.

Vincent showed Jean Paul where his father’s body lay.

In 2009 Samputu and Vincent began to spread the message of forgiveness.

Most Christians opposed them or ignored them.

Samputu says, ‘our world has a culture of revenge. Forgiving is not popular.

One genocide brings another genocide, one war brings another war.

We transmit our traumas, which we have inherited from our ancestors.

Love your enemies is the Christian standard.’