Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed.
What a humbling and inspiring story, brought to us thanks to Rocco (and via Cassy Fasano), and what lessons to ponder, here. We could think on this for the rest of our lives and not fully comprehend this mystery:
…the most emotional and profound of the bunch came when the monthlong gathering was addressed by a Rwandan religious, Sister Genevieve Uwamariya, whose recounting of her own experience provides a perfect reflection on the assembly’s chosen theme: “The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.”
Originally given in French, here’s a Vatican translation of Sr Genevieve’s intervention:
I am a survivor of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda 1994. A large part of my family was killed while in our parish church. The sight of this building used to fill me with horror and turned my stomach, just like the encounter with the prisoners filled me with disgust and rage.
It is in this mental state that something happened that would change my life and my relationships.
On August 27th 1997 at 1 p.m., a group from the Catholic association of the “Ladies of Divine Mercy” led me to two prisons in the region of Kibuye, my birthplace. They went to prepare the prisoners for the Jubilee of 2000. They said: “If you have killed, you commit yourself to ask for forgiveness from the surviving victim, that way you can help him free himself of the burden/weight of vengeance, hatred and rancor. If you are a victim, you commit yourself to offer forgiveness to those who harmed you and thus you free them from the weight of their crime and the evil that is in them.”
This message had an unexpected effect for me and in me….After that, one of the prisoners rose in tears, fell to his knees before me, loudly begging: “Mercy”. I was petrified in recognizing a family friend who had grown and shared everything with us.
He admitted having killed my father and told me the details of the death of my family. A feeling of pity and compassion invaded me: I picked him up, embraced him and told him in a tearful voice: “You are and always will be my brother”.
Then I felt a huge weight lift away from me… I had found internal peace and I thanked the person I was holding in my arms.
To my great surprise, I heard him cry out: “Justice can do its work and condemn me to death, now I am free!”
I read something like this and wonder, why O why should I ever bother paying any attention to politics, when this is reality; this is what is sound, authentic and true, this genuineness overpowers all of the illusory things.
But then I recall, it was politics that had a hand in creating all of that chaos, which brought about this meeting of heaven and earth.
Perhaps, after all, we are all of our lives, simply reliving that very moment of creation, when chaos became formed by the Word. As this sister says in her remarks:
From this experience, I deduce that reconciliation is not so much wanting to bring together two persons or two groups in conflict. It is rather the re-establishment of each in love and allowing internal healing which leads to mutual liberation.
And here is where the importance of the Church lies in our countries, since her mission is to offer the Word: a word that heals, liberates and reconciles.
The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.
— Isaiah 50:4
What a lesson this Sr. Genevieve Uwamariya brings us! I am so humbled, and so sorry for my pettiness, and the times I have not shown mercy. You think I would have learned this from Immaculée Ilibagiza’s incredible story or from the astonishing witness of Namrata Nayak, or the barely-known steadfastness of of Ignatius Kung Pin Mei.
Instead, I have to learn this, over and over again – and to be reminded, again and again, that contrition and forgiveness -the kiss of justice and mercy- is what slays the dragons.
So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.