Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What if…forgiveness were all we had to offer?

Norka wrote this post but is having technical difficulty posting.


Recently we invited our entire congregation to read “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust” by Immaculee Ilibagiza. It is the memoir of a college girl who survived the Rwandan genocide – the internal conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis in 1994.

Immaculee survived huddled in a small bathroom with seven other women for 91 days. If the trauma of that experience were not enough, Immaculee heard the killers chanting her name. They had already massacred her family and they knew that she was alive.

Machetes in hand and blood-thirsty they vowed to wipe all Tutsis from the face of the earth. Believing that they could, the killers went on a rampage throughout the country butchering any Tutsi or Tutsi supporter. It is estimated that close to a million people were murdered. Undoubtedly, the forces of evil were working overtime.

Ironically, all this occurred while the world stood by watching - clueless. If you’ve seen the movie: Hotel Rwanda you know exactly what I mean. That movie is another real-life depiction of the same genocide Immaculee survived.

To survive Immaculee retrieved into herself and held on to her faith. She used the memorization of Bible texts and prayer to keep her emotionally and psychologically sane – during the whole ordeal.
In spite of this there were times when she was overpowered with doubt and fear. She states in her book: “I realized that my battle to survive this war would have to be fought inside of me. Everything strong and good in me – my faith, hope, and courage – was vulnerable to the dark energy. If I lost my faith, I knew I wouldn’t be able to survive. I could rely on God to help me fight.”

But Immaculee’s survival is, to me, not even the greatest triumph of this amazing story. After the war Immaculee goes the extra mile and confronts the suspected killers of her family. They indeed confess all the gruesome details. Then Immaculee does something totally mind-boggling: she forgives them – to their faces. When asked why she would do such a thing, she states: “Forgiveness is all I have to offer”

Perhaps very few of us would ever experience even a quarter of what Immaculee went through in our full lifetimes. But we’ve all been hurt by people, and we all struggle with forgiveness. What if forgiveness where our only choice – the only thing we would choose to offer?

To watch video clips & read more about Immaculee click below:

4 Real Women International - First Annual "Survivors" Awards Benefit Gala (January 2008)


Anne said...

Norka, with my TiVo I have never saved an episode of 60 Minutes before, but for some reason I taped it this past Sunday. From the previews I saw there was a story about seven women huddled in a bathroom together fearing for their lives. I have no doubt that it's about the woman Immaculee, and no doubt that I'm supposed to listen to more of her story.

I cannot imagine surviving such horrendous things without God. Here in America in relative comfort we often struggle to discipline ourselves to spend time reading the Bible or in prayer. We, sometimes, in our great wealth and comfort, are the spiritually poor of the world.

"Forgiveness is all I have to offer". Those words made me cry, for a woman whose spirit is so exquisitely beautiful despite the scars her soul must bear. We need to hear stories such as hers, not just so Truth can be brought to the light, but so the Beauty of faith inside the human spirit can teach us all. Thank you so much.

Lori Arriaga said...

Forgiveness is the true beauty of our faith. Thank you Norka for sharing this beautiful story of this woman's faith that we all can learn from.