How Our Friend Eric Murangwa, Survivor of the 1994 Genocide Against The Tutsi in Rwanda, Forgives

Eric Murangwa

Interviewing Eric Murangwa, Survivor of the Genocide in Rwanda
As part of work that Rebecca is doing with the World Bank Group on stress management, burnout prevention, and resilience, Rebecca had the honor of interviewing her friend and colleague Eric Murangwa, MBE, a Tutsi Rwandan who survived the genocide that devastated his people and his country in 1994.

What Led to the Genocide
The genocide in Rwanda took place over a period of 100 days in which over a million Tutsi Rwandans and moderate Hutu Rwandans were killed by the governing Hutu militia.  Although this was supposedly in retaliation for the assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana (purported by the Hutu to have been executed by Tutsi rebels but there is debate about who was actually responsible for his death), it appears to have been merely a pretext because intense discord between the Tutsis and Hutus had been building for years.

What Saved Eric
When one of the militias searching for Tutsi rebels found and threatened to kill Eric, he showed them that he was the goalie for Rwanda’s very popular soccer team, Rayon Sports, and the militia, who were big fans of his team let him go.

Eric’s Journey

That was just the beginning of a harrowing journey in which he narrowly escaped death many times over.  Eventually had to leave the country because he was on a list of targets designated by the Hutu militia.  You can learn more about Eric’s compelling story here.

Commitment to Forgiving
What struck Rebecca most in the interview with Eric was the message of forgiveness that was woven throughout his story.  Granted, he admits that it didn’t happen overnight, but there was a general commitment by many in his country to adopt an approach of reconciliation rather than retribution in the recovery from their civil war.

Why Do You Want to Forgive?
For Rebecca, the most thought-provoking moment in the interview came when she asked Eric how does one build the muscle of forgiveness and he replied “You first have to ask yourself why you want to forgive.”

The Poison of Resentment and the Peace of Forgiving
Since then, we have been contemplating that simple but compelling question with respect to  anger and resentment that we harbor toward various colleagues, friends, family, service providers, organizations, etc..  We were reminded of the adage “resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die” (attributed to St. Augustine) and concluded that we wanted the peace that comes with forgiving others.  Others we asked said that they would want to be able to move on or they would want the emotional freedom that comes with letting go of anger and resentments.

Exploring Why You Aspire to Forgive
Of course, we know that that is just the beginning, and that there are other steps involved in the process of forgiveness.  But, with Eric’s question in mind, we propose that if there is someone that you want to forgive that you begin with exploring what inspires you to achieve forgiveness toward him/her.

Learning More About Eric and His Work
We also encourage you to explore the work Eric and his organization, The Ishami Foundation, is engaging in in their ongoing journey to recover from witnessing the depths of human depravity to creating a peaceful co-existence.  Their efforts to help others throughout the world avoid succumbing to the hate and division that leads to genocide are important lessons for us all.

With love, Rebecca and Gioia

Rebecca’s niece Piper’s response to making an image of anger towards others and what forgiveness would feel like.

Art Activity
Divide a piece of paper into two.  On one side draw the difficult feelings that you experience toward people that you want to forgive (anger, resentment, hate, etc.).  On the other side, draw what you would like to experience if you had forgiven them.  Then write down three things that you could do to move yourself toward that state that you are trying to achieve.