Picture credit: Bible Society / Dennis Machio
A survivor of the 1994 genocide spoke powerfully about the need for forgiveness as part of healing from trauma at the African Biblical Leadership Initiative conference in Kigali, Rwanda today.
Around 1 million people died in 100 days when government-backed Hutu extremists turned on Rwanda's Tutsi minority. The slaughter only ended when the Rwandan Patriotic Army under current President Paul Kagame defeated the government forces and stopped the killing.
Alice Mukarulinda was one of those who survived the genocide, though she was badly wounded and lost 26 members of her family.
She told the conference of the day when the Interahamwe killers came to her village a week after the genocide began and chased villagers into a church, which they burned. With many other Tutsis she fled to the wetlands where they hoped to find refuge, with her daughter on her back.
'The killers were there with former soldiers, searching, killing using guns, spears, machetes, dogs were looking for us and they found us in the wetlands,' she said. 'They killed many with machetes. I don't have a right hand, they clubbed me in the head, I had machete wounds all over my body.
'They killed my baby by cutting her in half.'
She said she was 'almost dead' when she was returned to her village by RPA soldiers.
But, she continued: 'I am here to talk about the miracles of God in my life.'
President Kagame's government had promoted reconciliation, she said. With the Bible Society of Rwanda, she and others had begun to meet and share with those who had attacked them. 'Perpetrators and victims started to sit together and heal from the trauma, and heal others.
'I am a person who has forgiven. I deeply hated myself, I was desperate, I hated Hutus, but then I was taught the word of God and I wanted to contribute.'
She spoke of Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus speaks of love for enemies and the need to forgive. 'You have to forgive or you will not be forgiven in heaven,' she said. 'The word of God in the Bible says, don't harden your heart.'