A genocide survivor

“I’m amazed by how our children are very close to each other.

They…….. broke down the pall of suspicion between two families.”

During the genocide Emerthe lost 7 members of her family including her parents. Afterwards she was traumatized. Her heart was full of anger and bitterness to the point that she could not bear meeting a Hutu in the street.

Things got worse when she heard that Celestin; one of the offenders who took part in killing her relatives during genocide, was released from jail. She said   “When I heard that Celestin was free, my heart started beating very fast that I got high blood pressure. Then, the idea of revenge on Celestin rose in my mind since I thought the government doesn’t care about our sorrow. As I was struggling to find a way to revenge, I got an invitation from CARSA to attend the trauma healing and reconciliation workshop. This helped me a lot to deal with the anger and bitterness and overcome trauma as well as the physical sickness such as headache, stomachache I used to suffer since 1994 when the genocide was stopped. Beside that I was able to forgive Celestin and release him from my heart. Since then we started the process of reconciliation, and we have been given a cow by CARSA which helped not only two of us but all our family members. Our families have come together as they were taking care after the cow. I’m amazed by how our children are very close to each other. They changed their minds and broke down the pall of suspicion between two families. After giving the first calf to Celestin, my cow has just given birth to a second one, we are happy to have our own two cows. We can now get 18 liters of milk per day, with the selling of this milk we get at least 90,000 Rwandan francs per month. We also have manure to spread on our land and sell the extra to our neighbors. There is now a growing production of crop due to the fertilizer from the cow. We can now afford the basic needs for our family, send our children to school, pay the health insurance for all members of our family and save some money.


One of her offenders

“The workshop we both attended was a source of change in my life. Before that I was struggling a lot with guilt, shame and poverty.”

Emerthe and Celestin have joined a reconciliation cell group that mainly consists of genocide survivors and their offenders from the same community who passed through trauma healing and reconciliation  workshops to start the journey of reconciliation. They meet regularly to share experiences, pray together, initiate some small income generating activities and help each other. In this regard, they helped Celestin to build a new house because the one he lived in before had been completely destroyed during the 12 years he spent in jail. During this time, his family was forced to move from one place to another to find shelter.

As we visited Celestin at his new home he said “I could not imagine that one day I would be forgiven by Emerthe for killing her relatives during the genocide. The workshop we both attended was a source of change in my life. Before that I was struggling a lot with guilt, shame and poverty. Now that I’m forgiven I feel free from the heavy burden I had been carrying for a long time since the end of the genocide. My life have been restored .My former victim has become a close friend, a sister with whom we share everything. Whenever I have a party at my home I invite her and she does so as well. I have hope now for a bright future since many barriers have been taken away.”

Emerthe and Celestin have been sharing their cow through Cow for Peace project for 3 years now.

The two families have shared the responsibility of taking care of the cow. When the cow birthed its first calf, they also shared the milk.

This time has been very beneficial to the family members from both sides.