America could learn a few things about reconciliation and forgiveness from the country of Rwanda. Twenty years ago in Africa, tribal animosity spilled over in Rwanda and 800,000 innocent people were slaughtered in 100 days. The world including America and the United Nations did nothing to intervene, turned a blind political eye to the genocide, our bad. President Bill Clinton and former UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, both later apologized for their inaction; too little too late. The brilliant unsettling movie, Hotel Rwanda, captures the tension, horror and chaos of those days.
How does this relate to Marriage Behind Bars? If a neighbor killed some of your family members in a bloody rage and years later ended up living in your home town, how would that work for you? Me, not well. Nationally, our country still grapples with Civil War angst, racial profiling, politicians questioning our President’s birth certificate and feeble immigration reform to name a few issues. Think about this: if 8,000 Americans were killed with machetes daily for 100 days, be they all Democrats, Republicans, Latinos, straights or gays; twenty years later would there be the start of reconciliation and forgiveness in America? I doubt it.
Thousands of inmates are released daily into American society after serving their time. Many seek a second chance at a normal life. Many will fail, a number will succeed. As a nation, we must change that to “many will succeed and a number will fail,” we cannot turn a blind eye, we are better than that. So speaking personally, I try to be non judgmental in my take on situations, gather both sides of the story and wonder how Jesus would handle things. I have never been accused of being a wild eyed bible thumper but there are some good things to be learned from the Bible, so I listen to the experts. I try to leave every church service inspired, hopefully a little wiser, more discerning, not as edgy, better prepared to help those shunned by mainstream America.
One could say, hey, what’s in it for me? Doesn’t help my Final Four bracket choices, family budget, Face book numbers or bass fishing prospects; why do I care? The next time your spouse, son or daughter has a minor fender bender, flat tire or accidently jostles somebody on the subway; you’ll care. I’d rather have my wife and sons interact with somebody who has hope and faith rather than a Glock and nothing to lose; pretty simple really. I’m tired of Fort Hood making news, the blade runner blubbering in court, Governor Chris Christie blaming everybody, politicians fawning at the feet of billionaires and the NSA storing all my cell phone calls. I’m ready for some inspiration, hope and accomplishment, the likes of Bono and Mandela.
Bottom line, how well do you forgive? Are you any good at reconciliation, providing hope to others, reaching out, sacrificing for others? Me, I took a hard look at myself and there is work to be done, pure and simple. In Rwanda, a Catholic organization, the Modest and Innocent Association (AMI) is helping killers and survivors to reconcile. God’s work in Rwanda, of all places, is healing and providing hope, now that’s inspiring. Check out these photos with perpetrators and survivors standing next to each other.
Some served time, but none are now behind bars. They are not best friends by a long shot, but no longer blood enemies either. I would hope this could happen regularly in America. Not a prayer you say, perhaps that is exactly what is needed.
In closing, Nigerian Nobel prize winning writer Wole Soyinka sums it up best “given the scale of trauma caused by the genocide, Rwanda has indicated that however thin the hope of a community can be, a hero always emerges. Although no one can dare claim that it is now a perfect state, and that no more work is needed, Rwanda has risen from the ashes as a model of truth and reconciliation.” So, are you that hero?
To read more about AMI click on link: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/magazine/06-pieter-hugo-rwanda-portraits.html?ref=world&_r=0