Prison Fellowship Rwanda (PFR) has been a partner of the Government of Rwanda (GoR) since 1995 after Genocide against Tutsi. Most of its areas of intervention do fall in the categories of psycho-social healing, peace building & reconciliation, restorative justice, spiritual resilience, crime prevention, human rights promotion and legal aid, emergency response as well as nurturing socio- economic empowerment.
Particularly on the side of unity, reconciliation and resilience, PFR started the program of fostering the culture of unity & reconciliation among Rwandans immediately after 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Bishop Gashagaza, one of genocide survivors heard a calling to first forgive the offenders/perpetrators but also heard God’s voice asking Him to Preach about the power of repentance and forgiveness among the offenders & victims of Genocide
Though the side of perpetrators could not easily trust Gashagaza’s message due to the fact that most of these prisoners had no hope of life instead expecting revenge for their heavy crimes, his fellow survivors also saw him as a traitor due to the message of forgiveness he used to plead to them on behalf of the perpetrators.
Photos Below: Bishop Gashagaza Deo with women inmates at Mageragere Kigali Prison
By the grace of God after a long journey of meeting and preaching both sides, some offenders/perpetrators started expressing guilty conscience with in their hearts through confession letters towards the victims/survivors hence upon the presidential pardon, hundreds of them that confessed were released from the prison to be reintegrated in their communities.
In the process, the then two parties faced similar challenges of shelter where the survivor’s homes were destroyed whereas the semi-permanent homes for perpetrators could not also resist during their stay in prisons. The posed challenges required Prison Fellowship Rwanda & the GoR to work on a piloting project of shelter for 30 houses at Mbyo, Mayange and 30 at Rweru in Bugesera district.
Subsequently this was a chance for the perpetrators and survivors to work together during the construction of these houses where they had to interact as one is fetching water while the other one is making bricks. It was here that the perpetrators humbled themselves & poured their hearts to the survivors while identifying where they had dumped the dead bodies of the survivors beloved ones and friends.
It is now 18 years when there is no more Hutus or Tutsi in these reconciliation Villages, they have managed to forgive each other, they intermarry, they support each other as one family, one people, one nation, they have formed cooperatives for their economic sustainability as well as being ambassadors teaching unity and reconciliation not only in Rwanda but also across different parts of the world that have through conflicts and wars.
Photo Below: Thacien the x-prisoner/Perpetrator of Genocide with Laurence the Survivor of Genocide witnessing about their unity and reconciliation journey on inauguration of Unity & Resilience Month in Bugesera District
These reconciliation villages have become role models & benchmarking sites for peacebuilding and conflict management in Rwanda attracting hundreds of foreigners across the world. Most of the guests are diplomatic delegates and community-based tourists do come from countries with post conflict era. They come to learn about Rwanda’s strategy and achievements in Psycho social healing, peaceful social cohesion, restorative justice, resilience and so forth.
Among the recent guests, PFR was honored to receive honorable Ye-One Rhie a member of the German Parliament, she was moved on how Rwanda has advanced not only in terms of economic development but also in terms of social healing through reconciliation and resilience.
Photos Below: Hon: Ye-One Rhie vising Rweru Reconciliation Village in Bugesera District
PFR was also a privileged to receive delegates of g7+ secretariate @ Mbyo Reconciliation Village Bugesera. Among the guests included the vice president of Timo lest Parliament Hon: Luis Roberto Da Silva, Hon: Elvina Calvalho along with the team that came to visit our country with an objective of peer learning, sharing of experience between Rwanda and Members of g7+ countries and establishing inter-parliamentary network.
Photos Below: Timo lest delegates signing the visitors book at Mbyo Reconciliation Village in Bugesera
In Less than a fortnight, PFR still received members of the interparliamentary Union for democracy at Gikondo Community Center where for urban refugees with a purpose to learn about women empowerment and protection against SGBV to refugees in Rwanda
Photos Below: Members of Parliament from Interparliamentary Union for Democracy @ Gikondo Community Center for Urban Refugees