A Lesson in Forgiveness from Genocide Survivor Jean-Paul Samputu
STV Edinburgh, Scotland – Jean-Paul Samputu survived one of the worst genocides in history–a massacre that claimed not only the lives of his parents, his three brothers, and his sister, but the lives of more than one million people who were killed in his country in just 90 days. All were killed by those who had once been their neighbors, their friends.
The 1994 mass slaughter took place in the central African nation of Rwanda where violence between two ethnic groups–the Hutu majority and the Tutsi–had festered for years. Jean-Paul, a well-known Tutsi musician at the time and a marked target, had already fled his home and travelled to Uganda.
It was more than a decade before Jean-Paul learned that his own family’s killer was a man he had once counted on as a friend. He came face to face with Eugene Nyirimana at the war tribunals in Rwanda in August of 2007. It was there that Jean-Paul spoke with the man and somehow found the courage to forgive him.
“I don’t think I’m a strong man or a particularly good man because I forgave, because I don’t think I made a deliberate choice to forgive. I think it was my only choice,” Jean-Paul says. “The man who killed my parents, he went to prison. As was right because he had committed a crime. But my prison was far worse than his. I was trapped, killing myself everyday with anger and bitterness. It was horrible.”
“I had to choose to forgive. It was the only way out for me,” he explains. “I had to do it for myself, to learn to love myself, to get the healing that I desperately needed. And when I found its peace, I knew I wanted to help others find it too.”
Jean-Paul now spends his time travelling around Rwanda and the world to share his story through discussion and music.
“It’s so important that people realize that forgiveness isn’t for the offender – it’s for you,” insists Jean-Paul. “We have a culture of revenge in our society at the moment. Generations pass their hatred onto the next generation and so on and so on. We receive the mistakes of our parents.”
“Instead of a culture of revenge we need a culture of forgiveness if the cycle is ever to be broken. Forgiveness is my message. Education is the answer. To teach our children that a culture of forgiveness is the only way to end pain.”
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