Rebuilding in the Aftermath of Destruction
Seventeen years after the horrendous Rwandan genocide, offenders and victims are living peacefully in PF Reconciliation Villages.
Residents of the 182 homes that make-up the village of Musanze, Rwanda, work as one to grow crops and tend to livestock. The village’s community spirit may not seem unusual until you learn that within this small community live both convicted perpetrators and surviving victims of the 1994 genocide.
More than one million people died in this small East African nation during the horrific genocide when the Hutus ethnic group began a killing spree against the minority Tutsi group. Neighbour violently killed neighbour during the hundred-day massacre. More than a decade later, as many genocide perpetrators were released back into the community, the possibility of living together in peace seemed unimaginable.
Yet in Musanze and five other “PF Reconciliation Villages,” residents are living in harmony and working together to earn a living. PF Rwanda provides the materials and ex-prisoners hoping to make amends for their involvement in the genocide build the houses for victims who lost their homes when fleeing the carnage.
Thanks to PF Rwanda’s reconciliation work inside the prisons, ex-offenders have a new attitude. Bishop John Rucyahana, PF Rwanda Board Chairperson, reports that, “Perpetrators are now coming to us and saying, ‘How can you help us to do something to express a sense of…remorse? We cannot restore human beings, but at least we want to express our remorse.” Restoring homes to displaced genocide victims is a tangible way they can do just that.
The homes the ex-prisoners are building have made a great difference to those in need. “My wife, five children, and I recently moved into one of the new houses here in Musanze Reconciliation Village,” says one of the homeowners, Boniface Barigera. “My family was living on the streets before coming here, displaced by poverty and the events of the genocide.”
PF Rwanda’s Reconciliation Village includes a “rotation system” in which PF provides a new villager with a goat, chicken, or cow. PF teaches the villager the breeding process and the villager then gives the offspring to another resident in the community. The recipient then repeats the process, building further community and cooperation, and fostering growth of livestock in the village.
“Now my family has a home,” Boniface says, “I now live with others in peace. My life will never be the same.”