This lenten season a lesson in peace and reconciliation

Mr. Joseph Sebarenzi , God Sleeps in Rwanda

Mr. Joseph Sebarenzi , God Sleeps in Rwanda

Last week I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Joseph Sebarenzi speak about peace and reconciliation. He had come to the campus of our college to speak of just that. His story could be all about sadness, grief, loss, anger, hatred, shame – but it wasn’t. It was a story of loss to be sure – he had lost the majority of his family and friends to the genocide that gripped Rwanda in 1994. But his message was one of reconciliation. At every corner or opportunity to place blame or outrage, his has been the choice to heal and recover. He is remarkable. I had read his book, God Sleeps in Rwanda, an excellent memoir of post-genocide recovery and political realism. Genocides do not simply exist in the mind of man. They are created generation over generation and fed by hate and jealousy. Joseph had met with a group of us to discuss his book earlier in the day and then later presented to a larger group. Following his presentation we then viewed the film, Sometimes in April. The film captures the brutality of the events in Rwanda as they unfolded through the eyes of the Rwandan people. It is a powerful film and leagues above the Hollywood scripted Hotel Rwanda that most of us know. I would choose Sometimes in April way over the Hollywood film. I wanted to capture this in my blog as a way of bookmarking this event. Joseph is one of those really rare humans that rise above the rest of us. He is above us – like Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Mandela – they see and know beyond what we know. I also wanted to include 2 excerpts from his book – it is a remarkable read and mandatory for anyone considering work in peace –

From Joseph Sebarenzi’s God Sleeps in Rwanda, pg. 212

“I often share with the audience the story of an old rabbi who once asked his pupils how they could tell when night ends and day begins. “Could it be,” asked one of the student, “when you can see an animal in the distance and you can tell whether it’s a sheep or a dog?” “No” answered the rabbi. Another asked, “Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it’s s fig tree or a peach tree?” “No,” answered the rabbi. “Then what is it?” the pupils demanded. “It is when you can look in the face of any man or woman and see that it is your brother or sister. Because if you cannot see this, it is still night.” It is still night for many people. It is still night in many countries around the world. When I was born and when I was growing up, it was still night in Rwanda. And darkness still hangs over Rwanda today. ”

“I dream of taking them [my children] to see the green hills and endless blue sky; to see the country I knew before violence and bloodshed scarred it so deeply; to see the place God finds so beautiful that at night, after a day of traveling the world visiting other countries, He chooses the land of a thousand hills to lay His head down to sleep; to see the place I dream of when I close my own eyes at night. To see Rwanda.”

…and his quote from Robert Kennedy in his acknowledgements…

“Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.” Robert F. Kennedy

If you are interested in learning about peace and conflict resolution/reconciliation, here are some programs recommended in Joseph’s book.

Karuna Center, Vermont

Centers for Peace studies

until then – let us all strive to be good to one another – cheers!



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