Chapter 10: Essence of reconciliation

The Power of Time and Workings

Translation by Ms. Haruka Osada (Simon Fraser University)

sketch Dr. MinamiThe cooperative work of the survivors and the perpetrators had finally begun. After long 18 years, the three survivors had chosen “reconciliation” for each and own present and future – and for the community and the future of Rwanda they love. At least, these three pairs were determined to share their past that have binded them, their present filled with pain, and their unforeseeable future when they decided to join my program and the research.
If I look back on that time, I am sure that their past before joining the research program was filled with pain and struggle that I cannot imagine. Pastor Deo, the PFR Executive Director, and Guma, my translator, both said the same thing: “We have come a long, long way”. They put their experience of living with all and every person’s pain in the six Reconciliation Villages from the very beginning into this simple sentence. While they looked at the pairs on cooperative works, I could see their eyes were smiling with joy. Looking at them, I thought “Right, it took us numerous processes and a lot of time to get here”.
It was not easy to get these three participating pairs. It was not as easy like they could decide whether to join the research after reading the details of this program and thinking about it for a couple of days.18 years of process, the ever-flowing time and the daily workings, had lessened the survivors’ sorrow and pain. From the moment they decided to live in the Reconciliation Village, these three pairs have been fighting against the fear for each other, anxiety and doubt about each other.
All pairs living in the Reconciliation Villages have experienced a formal ceremony where the perpetrators recognize and express own sin and ask for “forgiveness”, and the survivors “forgive” these perpetrators. They choose to repent of their past and live together now and in future. I always wanted to know how they “changed” after they experience “forgiving” and “being forgiven”. What do they feel when they live with someone who murdered their loving family, their children and husbands? I just wanted to know.
Not just “forgiving”, but these three pairs chose to make atonement through action – or chose to accept it and work together. What does this process create? Through a series of interviews, I was starting to see the answer.

Upwelling Joy

The three pairs got their activities going. They have worked together with other groups in the Reconciliation Villages in the past. However, apparently none of the three perpetrators had worked only for one survivor before. Until now, they only worked on things they have to manage at the time in a group.
All three perpetrators said that they feel “pleasure” to work for the survivors who are family of someone they murdered. The three survivors also said that they feel “pleasure” to have the perpetrators who killed their family to offer their labor to them. All three pairs were feeling “pleasure” to have an opportunity to involve in cooperative works.
It is not exaggeration to say that these pairs never stop talking to each other during the activity. I have been trying to ask, at the interview, what they were talking about – even if it was a very casual and trivial topic. One time, one pair was having a long talk for 3-4 minutes during the activity. They even stopped their hands for the moment. I was sure they were talking about something very important, something that can be a key for reconciliation. I asked them, “What were you talking about today?”
The survivor, L told me. “Today, T (the perpetrator) asked me ‘You said your grandchild is visiting you this weekend. What are you going to cook?’, so I answered I bought some beef to make Ugali from the market today. Then T said, ‘Oh, you went to that market? Did you buy Rwandan beef? Or did you buy it from Muzungu (Caucasians, Foreigners)?’, so I said I bought from Muzungu. Then T told me, ‘Muzungu keep their meat in the fridge, so it goes bad pretty fast once they take the meat out to sell it to you. If you are making Ugali, meat from X Market tastes better’”.

Good Faith

I was astonished. “What a peaceful topic!”. It was a simple, rather discursive but realistic and convincing answer that totally betrays my anticipation for a “deep” essence of reconciliation. When I heard her answer and saw her carefree smile, I simply felt “How peaceful!”.
It is wrong to say that there are only extraordinary and special answers. The “normal” conversation of two people who share an “abnormal” relationship shows their style of peace-building.
The three survivors all said the same thing: “(the perpetrators) S, M, T worked very hard for me”. I asked, “How did you know they worked hard?” One of the survivors, L answered, “I could hear his deep breathing so I stopped my hands and looked his face. Then I saw his face running with sweat”. Another survivor said, “When I came back after tying a goat, S (the perpetrator) already tilled my rows”. She continued, “As you asked, I thought I prepared 2 hours worth of work….but we actually finished 30 minutes early. S did the job so quickly. He worked hard”. The last survivor also told me. ”Today, M came to my field 3 hours early to clear the path so it would be easy for us to harvest corn. I was very happy”. Sweat, speed, and self-motivation. I was touched by their unexpected expression of “good faith”.

Appreciate for Appreciation

The three survivors each expressed their appreciation after finishing their cooperative works. The survivor L treated the perpetrator S her handmade Ubushera, the carbonated juice made from sorghum. S said to me, “Did you see that, Masa? L brought me Ubushera. I’m so happy! She appreciates my work. I’m grateful. I’m happy, Masa”.
I gave him a big smile. I felt impatient of myself, who cannot say much to leave no effect on the interviews later on. Another survivor, L made her child hold a tank of water and let the perpetrator, M wash his hands. M looked at L and said, “Don’t worry about me, thank you”. L smiled at M softly. Then she said shyly “Murakoze (thank you for working hard)”. I was glad to see their expression of appreciation beyond words.
As a result of the new reconciliation program based on Morita Therapy, I collected 56 hours of cooperative works footage and also 56 hours worth of interview data. It is a precious data that can be a key for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. As a researcher, I am now starting to analyze the data. I am excited. I would love to leverage the essence of reconciliation that I learn from the data as a clinical psychologist.
For me as well, what these three “teachers of reconciliation” has become a treasure of my life.