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The Power of Forgiveness

Amy shares what happened when friends gathered to hear the witness of Father Marcel, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide.

The children in Boston with Father Marcel

On Saturday, January 25, some friends from the Boston area proposed an event for a presentation by Father Marcel Uwineza, S.J., about the Rwandan genocide. The title of the presentation was “Doing the Unimaginable: The Power of Forgiveness.” What could make a three-hour round trip on a cold, dark, rainy Saturday night in January after a particularly stressful week with my students and teenage children at home worthwhile?

What attracted me most was not simply another cultural event, but having a friend say, “Look here! I have met someone exceptional and I want to you to meet him too!” A proposal is made and something inside me says, “Yes!” I want to see; I want to understand! “Doing the Unimaginable: The Power of Forgiveness”--I need to forgive and I need to be forgiven!

The evening began with Fr. Marcel’s presentation. He explained some of the history of Rwanda and gave an explanation of what led to the genocide in Rwanda. Then he gave accounts of some who lived through genocide and shared his personal experience with us. He was twelve years old when he and his family were forced to leave their home. He told how he and his family were shown great compassion by some, how others risked their own lives and well-being to help his family, and how yet others turned them away. He shared with us the heartbreaking story of how his mother, sister, and brother were all killed in the genocide. Finally, he shared his powerful story of forgiveness when, years later, he came face to face with the man who murdered his family.

“We need to move from exclusion to embrace”, he said. “Forgiveness is not forgetting,” he told us, “but a way of remembering differently.” Words that literally took my breath away!

In the end he proposed a way to live with gratitude and issued a call to love to all of us. Following the presentation, refreshments were served and some friends prepared a moment to sing together.

After Fr. Marcel’s presentation, I was able to speak with my friend Jen, who I hadn’t seen in a while. We are both forty-something moms and teachers. She shared with us the surprising news that she is pregnant and told of her experiences with her husband, children, and work over the past few months. My husband and I were so struck by her. Afterward, we both commented to each on other how beautiful she looked, her face radiant with joy!

Later, our friend Monica sent this message: “When I went to say ‘bye’ to Father Marcel he said that this was the most beautiful night he has had in Boston so far. He was so happy to see such life in the Church!”

I am so grateful for this life and for my friends who push me to be something more than I feel I am even capable of. “Friends, that is, witnesses!”

Amy, Westport, Massachusetts

Editor's note: Father Marcel will be sharing his story at this year's New York Encounter as part of the presentation "Someone, Somewhere, Who Lived Fully" (Sunday, February 16, 5:30 pm).


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