Rwandan genocide survivor Antoinette Mushimiyimana has forgiven the men who murdered her family – after she found faith in God. Born in Kigali, Rwanda, Mushimiyimana grew up in a Tutsi family, a community which would face a raft of discrimination before the years of genocide saw Tutsi people imprisoned and murdered.
But more than 25 years on, Mushimiyimana has found peace and is able to offer a hand of forgiveness to those who committed the brutalities.
She said: “Because of what Jesus has done in my life, I have found the strength to forgive those who killed my family.
“I have embraced forgiveness as a fundamental key to freedom and a stepping stone to reconciliation.
“However, my forgiveness journey has been tested many times. I have discovered that forgiveness is a choice you have to make over and over again. I still have to forgive people associated with my loss.”
Growing up in such a scary circumstance as Rwanda during the genocide era has left a significant mark on Mushimiyimana.
She added: “The genocide started after the death of President Habyarimana. It was the night of April 6, 1994, and I was eleven years old. I remember playing at home when a bulletin came on the radio. My father said to us, ‘The president is dead, the Hutu will finish us.’
“One day I decided to leave my hiding place, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Dead bodies lay all over the ground.
“I passed a child sucking milk from its dead mother and this really upset me. The image has stayed with me to this day and I still wonder whether I could have done something to help that baby.” Struggling to cope with all the devastation around her, Mushimiyimana cried out to God.
She said: “I prayed, ‘Please protect me, if you exist.’” I sat in my safe place for many hours until my dad and two of my brothers, who I thought were dead, found me and said we had to leave.”
Mushimiyimana did go on to lose her family, but later in life found strength through the love of God.
She explained: “I became a Christian in 2000 after joining the Christian Union at the college I was attending.
“I was initially attracted by the singing, because that had always been one of my hobbies, but after becoming friends with the Christian students I realised I also wanted a relationship with God.
“So I responded one day to an invitation by a preacher and I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and got baptised. Through forgiveness I have found a freedom that I did not have when I held on to unforgiveness, when I was in bondage to hatred, bitterness, resentment and anger.
“Luke 6:37, ‘Forgive, and you will be forgiven’ has brought me so much inner peace.”