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Meeting Vincent's murderer: (Richard Batsinduka forgives his brother's murderer).

Richard Batsinduka left Rwanda in 1973 and taught in Burundi and Swaziland before settling in Canada in 1990. It was the loss of his family in the Rwandan genocide in 1994 that decided him to devote the rest of his life to conflict resolution.

In 1998, he was back in Kigali, Rwanda, training young people under the auspices of the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution. One morning, listening to the radio as he waited for a taxi to take him to work, he suddenly heard the name of his brother, Vincent, who had been killed with his wife while working for the Red Cross. The speaker, who had been imprisoned for his alleged role in the genocide, said that he had been responsible for these and other murders. He asked the Rwandan people to forgive him.

`I was distraught,' says Batsinduka. `Vincent had been more than a brother to me: he was my hero.' When he got back to the hotel that evening, there were messages waiting for him from the brother and sister of Vincent's wife, and others. `We were unanimous that we had to meet this man,' says Batsinduka. `As the evening went on, the phone calls became more and more vengeful. I had the worst night of my life, praying to God to give me the strength and serenity to meet the man who had murdered my brother.'

Next day Batsinduka went to the prison with Vincent's in-laws. They agreed that he should meet the murderer alone. `When he came in, I stood up, but I could not speak. I was sweating and he was shaking, avoiding my eyes.'

The murderer, Diogene, told Batsinduka how he had decided to repent, after some Christians had visited the prison. `Most of the prisoners think I am an idiot, but if I can have your forgiveness, nothing else matters,' he said.

Batsinduka asked Diogene if he understood how, in killing these people, he had not only destroyed them, but the whole community. Would he be ready to meet the community and ask for their forgiveness?

`He did not reply, just burst into tears. After about 10 minutes, I asked again and he said yes, he would meet the community and do whatever they wanted. And if they wanted him to die, he would die happily, as long as they forgave him.

`I said, "As far as I am concerned I am forgiving you from the bottom of my heart." I felt warm in my heart: that I had done something Vincent would have wanted me to do.'

Batsinduka went back to his in-laws and explained what had happened. `I am convinced he wants to repent,' he said. `Now it's up to you.' Diogene's future will depend on the relatives of his other victims. `But after I talked to him, he had hope.'

And what hope does Batsinduka have for forgiveness in Rwanda? `It requires moral values many don't have or surrendered because of what happened in the country.' He puts his hope in education, which could free Rwandans from the prison of their own personal suffering, and help them to understand that others have suffered too.

But he knows from experience that forgiveness is not easy. Last year he heard that Vincent's six-year-old daughter had been raped. `I can't describe my pain. I have not met that person, I don't know if I could forgive him. But we are told to forgive 70 times seven.'
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Publication:For A Change
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Words:575
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