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God Sleeps in Rwanda: A Journey of Transformation, by Joseph Sebarenzi (Oneworld Publications , 2010)
The former Rwandan speaker of parliament went through a tough time during his childhood. In a beautiful thousand hills, land of endless paradisiacal view of Rwanda, he took his time and described his life in a poetic style, making every reader envy that land of milk and honey, the land of endless spring, where green valleys greet flourish hills and the open blue sky. This made me personally miss Rwanda, where Good always sleeps. He describes his life from a stable and peaceful society which abruptly changes into chaos and unspeakable horrible time.
The early childhood of Mr. Joseph characterized by different episodes, because apart of being a child from a Christian beliefs family where he was raised in harmony and parental warmth, he fled the country and became a refugee. As a Tutsi minority, Mr. Joseph experienced humiliation, exclusion and denial by some of his Hutu neighbours like any other Tutsi at that time. During his time as a refugee, he focused on studies. Then the 1994 genocide erupted while he was abroad. His relatives got killed, and afterwards, the Tutsi former Tutsi-dominated rebel group overthrew the Hutu regime.
The new era of Tutsis seemed to be ona near horizon. He got appointed speaker of the parliament. This was a powerful position. But he used his power for a positive change, and he wanted to be the voice of the voiceless, and fought for human rights respect, peace and humanity instead of revenge against his perpetrators. He always wanted to forge a reconciling bridge between Hutus and Tutsis, so that former enemies could be the infinite friends and peaceful neighbours for a better future of Rwanda . His principal relied on "forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation."
Nevertheless, despite his having this position after the genocide, working with his Tutsi colleagues including the President Paul Kagame (Vice-president & Minister of Defence that time), Mr. Joseph became a threat to his colleagues including Paul Kagame (a powerful man), and he had to flee the country again to save his life, due to the assassination plan against him . Until when?
Because he was a Tutsi and survivor of the genocide, nobody could believe that he would have any problem. But it happened. He fled the country and he went through inhumane and humiliating paths while crossing the black-border to Uganda , but he succeeded afterward.
While reading this interesting book, I asked myself about the link between Mr. Joseph and Mandela in this way: quoting his own words from 1964, Nelson Mandela repeated the same words on February 11th 1990 after his liberation: "I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die"
God sleeps in Rwanda is a real story about reconciliation and how to regain peace in within-self, with a neighbour or just a colleague and simple classmate. According to
Mr. Joseph, forgiveness based on apology is a cure for a victim, because if you keep anger inside yourself and planning for revenge, you destruct yourself even before your so-called- enemies do harm to you. Better to release yourself, and you get relief in your heart. Despite all he went through, Mr. Joseph focuses on sustainable reconciliation, truth-telling as a cornerstone of reconciliation and forgiveness. He lends a peaceful hand to Hutus who brutally massacred his parents and relatives, and surprisingly again, he has widely opened his arms to embrace and pardon the former politician who attempted to assassinate him.
This is an incredible example of how we should practice forgiveness for a better future of our communities, societies and countries, and then the world.
Book reviewed by Dr.Claude Shema Rutagengwa
Member of Transcend Peace and development network
( Canada )