Rwanda: Survivors Become Forgivers

Elie, genocide survivor and member of the Wirira Association. See bottom photo. "My husband and three children were killed during the genocide. They killed them with pangas and machetes. They killed all of my relatives. I have wounds everywhere on my body. I had a lot of pain and could not forgive the Hutu tribe. I was so hopeless. Slowly by slowly, we (the survivors) are getting free. I have hope now that I have a good future. Because I am with Jesus, I am going to make it. The strength I have is by the grace of God."

Salafina, 29, a survivor of the genocide with the man that killed her family. “I am the only one that remains. They beat me and I am no longer strong. The church started teaching us to forgive each other. He asked forgiveness and I have forgiven him. I can forgive because I am a Christian. I now work side by side with the man that killed my family. The perpetrators and survivors now work together. God gave me a heart of forgiveness.”

Members of the Wirira Association, a group formed to comfort widows of the genocide that were also raped. Wirira means, Don't Cry.

More than 800,000 people, 20% of the country’s population,¬†are estimated to have been killed in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. I was recently asked by Drink Coffee, Do Good and Savannah Christian Church Global Outreach to document the stories of both the survivors and perpetrators of the genocide.

All Photographs copyright Gary S. Chapman

(Nikon D3s, 70-200mm 2.8 @200mm, 1/250 sec, f2.8, ISO3200)

(Nikon D3s, 24mm f1.4, 1/320 sec, f2.5, ISO3200)

(Nikon D3s, 50mm 1.4, 1/2500 sec, f1.4, ISO200)

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11 thoughts

  1. Your pictures and their stories left me breathless. I can’t imagine the horrors those women survived, but their stories help me see the depth of God grace. Thank you for sharing Gary, God has blessed you with a very special ministry!

  2. Amazing photos. I do believe in the power of forgiveness. But, if God gave you a heart of forgiveness, where was God and Jesus when this happened? How could they disappeared for 3 months and give their backs to 800.000 people? Open your eyes.

  3. Excellent question Roonie. The question of pain, death and the seeming abandonment of God is a tough question. C.S Lewis (the author of the Narnia series) delved deeply into this topic in his book, The Problem of Pain. If you are ever in the ATL area, let’s get together and talk. I would love to hear your views. And thanks for the kind words about the photography.

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