Prison Fellowship Rwanda initiated. Unity and reconciliation Project known as Project Ubumwe aims at bringing together Genocide survivors and their offenders and their families to a place where repentance and forgiveness occur.
Coming together offers a space where offenders confess their complicity and crimes committed during the Genocide against the Tutsi; apologizing to the families they offended. Through the word of God, survivors are encouraged to forgive as well. With this approach,both parties attend Unity and Reconciliation trainings based on the confessions and forgiveness principles to streingthen and foster unity, reconciliation processes and social cohesion.
This project started in Ngoma and Bugesera Prisons as a pilot project in 2015. Several hundreds of prisoners had written letters of apology to the families they offended;they were also disclosing details associted with their involvement in the killings. Later, when they were facilitated by trained mediators,they ended up apologizing to their victims’s families.
Genocide survivors went through a series of training and counselling sessions to help them deal with the trauma caused by the tragic events they experienced, learned how to be resilient despite challenges they are faced with. Most of all,they were trained on how they can use forgiveness to improve their mental and spritual life which eventually affect their physical life. After a significant amount of time, they managed to forgive their offenders and were freed indeed. They did not only unite with their offenders but also with the families of offenders who in many cases were not getting along with them.
The families of offenders were also reached out to stand in the gap and apologize to the Genocide survivors. In most cases,they would blame survivors on the incarceration of the families in prisons, through this project they faced the truth about crimes their family members in prisons actually committed with the help of facilitors,they successfully apologized and expressed their remorse towards Genocide survivors.
After meeting and trainings conducted since then, from districts of Bugesera, Ngoma,Kayonza and Gatsibo over 1,060 people from prisons, and comunities of survivors and families of prisoners have participated in this project.
The final events/community events is purposefully held before the entire community. Offenders publically apologized for the crimes they committed and survivors forgave them.This is to assist both parties to start a new journey build on confession and forgiveness.
They are hundreds more prisoners from all over Rwanda that have already written letters of confession and willing to meet and ask forgiveness the families of survivors about the crimes they comitted against them during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
Since this project was launched significant impact have been observed in terms of apoloy letters written in favor of survivors in which former offenders disclosed their role and revealed considerable information surrounding the deaths of the victims they did not provide during Gacaca courts. Genocide survivors have made an outstanding step to forgive those who masscred their loved ones. Through this brave and bold step,in some instances they did not ask to be compansated for their properties destroyed or looted during the genocide.
Looking back at the trends since Uinty and reconciliation project started, Genocide survivors became more and more free and libarated from the pain of the past through genuine and sincere forgiveness they freely offered to their direct offenders. This unprecedented action of reconcilation on behalf of Genocide survivors and former offenders is being made possible by the determination on both side to nurture the familiyhood among many things.
Today this journey continues and it is a big contribution to the process of unity and reconcilation, such a stunning legacy to future generation in Rwandan society.
Figures of Participants( Genocide survivors, offenders and their families) in Unity and Reconcilation Trainings in 2016-2017.
|Attended Prisoners||Attended Prisoners’ families||Attended Genocide victims’ families||Total|
On this Thursday 5th October 2017, 21 inmates of Rwamagana Prison confess and receive forgiveness from the families of victims of Genocide of Tutsi of 1994, the event took place in sector of Nyamirama in Kayonza District, in his remark of President of Prison Fellowship Rwanda Bishop Rucyahana John said “let unity and reconciliation in Rwanda be practical not only words, and continued saying look around you the houses and roads that are built are not made for Tutsi or Hutu the same let unity and reconciliation must be practical” he continued thanking the prisoners who accepted their roles during Genocide and ask for forgiveness without shifting blame to another person’s.
Muhire Louis Antoine, Commissioner at National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, he thanks the families of victims who willingly forgive their offenders, and he requested the offenders for not asking for forgiveness for the sake of being forgiven but asking for forgiveness with a heart of repentance.
Deputy Commissioner General of RCS DCGP Jeanne Chantal UJENEZA, requested other prisoners to confess and ask for forgiveness to continue the process of unity and reconciliation.
As event was going on the prisoner named Habimana Jean Pierre stoop up and asked for forgiveness to the families of victims because during genocide of Tutsi of 1994, he killed 6 people, and he promised the families of victims to show them where he buried the bodies of their owns.