Jaqueline and Mathias live across the street from one another in a small village called Mbyo in rural Rwanda, which I visited today. They graciously told me their story of genocide, heartbreak and eventual reconciliation. Mathias killed members of Jaqueline’s family in 1994, spent years in prison and then, as a condition of his release, moved into the same village to work for a way forward. Now, they have built up so much trust he even watches her children. They were sitting on her front stoop shelling peanuts as I interviewed them this afternoon, clearly at ease with one another.
They were incredibly open with the process of coming to trust again, but their story made me think about the definition of reconciliation and forgiveness, and if one is possible without the other. Sitting there, seeing the troubled look on Mathias’ face as he described taking part in the genocide, it is clear the burden hasn’t left him. Jaqueline described first fearing her neighbor in the early days living in the village, thinking maybe one day he would come for her. But they say determination and their faith helped paved the path forward from this unspeakable pain. – Megan Specia