by Jennifer Murray
I’m not a TV watcher, but one night, I happened to lie down on my bed and click on the TV. This is how I first saw As We Forgive on UNC Channel 4 – PBS.
The most profound moment happened for me at this impromptu, yet ordained meeting between myself and Rwanda. I was liberated to LOVE, to love in a way I had not thought possible to do on earth, and my teachers were the people of Rwanda.
This film is the earthly example of what I believe Jesus Christ intended to teach us. And just like Jesus’ example we are taught this message of forgiveness through loss. The loss I speak of is the death of 1,000,000 people, people who were neighbors. Neighbors made enemies through the act of genocide in Rwanda. What was left for Rwanda was the remnant of these neighbors, the people left to the challenge of rebuilding their country and perhaps finding as no other collective group of people had found before, the true meaning of “Love your neighbor, as you love yourself.”
Due to the message of the film and its profound relationship to what Jesus taught in scripture I could not keep the message of As We Forgive to myself; I needed to share it. I decided to host a screening in honor of God, Rwanda, and the life God gave to me. I asked for the exhibition copy for my birthday, and my friends joined me in my birthday celebration in which we watched the film together. A beautiful discussion occurred after the film and it seemed a wind of love blew through the gathering.
Casey, a participant of that screening, requested to host another event during the 40 days of Forgiveness Campaign. Each of the events have been small, but I have faith that out of the small seeds that have been planted, and with continued watering of those seeds, a mighty transformation will occur. The fact is, it is already occurring, and it only takes one person hearing, believing, and living this message to affect the world around them.
Something Saveri said in Catherine Larson’s book, As We Forgive, brings this fact home for me: “What brought us the conviction to commit genocide was the indoctrination of divisive ideas by bad government.” Ideas and how we convey those ideas have a powerful effect on the world around us. As a writer, home educator, and participant in an organization for nurturing women, I recognize how influential we are as we pass our ideas from one person to the next. The idea of ethnic division killed 1,000,000 people in 100 days. How do we believe this idea began? An idea passed from 1 person to 1,000,000 people dead, and countless victims and murderers throughout the devastated country. As I pass my own ideas and influence around, I want to promote love, forgiveness and reconciliation. I want to indoctrinate others into grace, not into hostility. Yes, for me it is that simple.
Sadly, I believe the church has lost its way in this simple yet profound message. Bishop Tutu referenced this in the film by acknowledging that the church shoulders guilt in the acts of genocide. I see this same issue in America. The oppression I see in American church life today is against the soul and spirit rather than a literal killing of one’s body. The church stifles liberty and health. Due in large part to our prosperity, we remain trapped in an illusive idea that all is well within us and around us.
In the work I am involved in with women; the pain of this subtle oppression is obvious to me. Women remain oppressed and stifled. Sadly, as women stay oppressed they become oppressors woman to woman, and we continue to involve ourselves in hateful acts. Chantal’s story reflected how easily we can do this in the midst of our own pain and suffering. I think about her desperate feelings. Chantal did not want to bathe herself. It felt as though she hated herself and her existence as much as she hated John. Women in our churches and in America need the message of forgiveness and reconciliation toward themselves and toward others. I hated myself, my existence, my life. I looked to the church for love. I found only obligation out of a fear-based message. In my life I was a victim of abuse as a child, young adult and into my adulthood. Out of that pain I became an offender. I pray to change this not only in my life, but the life of other women. I am committed to stop female to female oppression. I am committed to share the grace I have found toward myself and to others through the profound mystery of God’s love for me and faithfulness to me. The message of As We Forgive is helping me on this road to liberty.
The work ahead feels insurmountable. As I go my way, I reflect on Rwanda and people like Bishop Tutu and Gahigi. I know they must have felt despair when confronted with such a large, seemingly hopeless task. No matter how hopeless it appeared to be, they set their foot on the road to reconciliation, one foot, one person, at a time. They believe in the power of their personal influence for reconciliation, and they are using it to change an entire country.
Because of Rwanda I believe anything is possible.
I am grateful to the people who brought this film to life. I am grateful beyond my ability to express in words. Thank you. I pray that my own life will continue on a path to support this powerful message and cause, and that I too will be a Living Brick.
2 Corinthians 5:19 (New Living Translation)
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.