Chapter 8: Heart to Heart


Translation by Ms. Haruka Osada (Simon Fraser University)

sketch Dr. MinamiI visited the Reconciliation Village often even before I started collecting data for my research. This was to accompany the visitors, the other researchers, the professors and the students in order to explain how the village was established, the logical base of the reconciliation activity, its practical evidences and the specific methods and activities as the director of Research Office. I try to convey the message that the old model based on “forgiveness” has its limits and awkwardness, and introduce the new Practical Reconciliation approach with Morita Therapy that integrates cooperative activities.

One day, we had a donor from Virginia, the U.S., as our guest. His purpose was to observe the people’s everyday lives in the Village, and interview the survivors and the perpetrators as a part of fundraising. We visited Mbyo Village, one of the six villages that PFR manages (the seventh village is currently under construction).

During the visitors interview the people, I have free time to myself. I love spend this time to enjoy the nature of the village, and play with the animals and the children. I feel refreshed by the untouched Rwandan great nature, the smell of African red soil, the slow flow of time, a big march of animals, the pure and innocent eyes of the animals, the carefree smiles of the children.

I also talk to the villagers often. My Kinyarwanda is still poor, but I try to communicate with them with what I know. They, as well, find it interesting to see a “foreigner” speaking Kinyarwanda, and respond to me back. One of the conversations went like this; I said, “Ifi ikonje” (fish is for cold) while gesturing to eat Sashimi. They responded, “Oya, ifi ishyushye” (no, fish is for warm). Of course, they do not have custom of eating raw fish, so they found it funny and started laughing. I said back, “Oya, ifi ikonje” (no, fish gotta be fresh and raw!). They laughed again. I know that a sense of humor can cross the borders. The difference of cultures brings smiles, and the villagers become delighted to teach more Kinyarwanda to me.

One man held my right hand with his, pointed at me and said “Amasaka!” while smiling. It means sorghum or corn in Kinyarwanda. He probably said so because it sounds similar to my name, Masa. There is also a word similar to Minami, my last name: “Minani”, a word meaning “the eighth child”. He named me, without my permission, “Amasaka Minani” (the eighth corn). When I said back, “But, I’m the eldest one!”, the other villagers and the man laughed even more. By using humor as a communication tool, I am becoming very close to the people.

With hatchets, clubs and hoes normally used for farming, friends and neighbors once killed each other; this is one of the villages in Bugesera, the district which had the biggest number of victims.

However, we cannot sense the terrible past behind their smiles. I feel like my heart is softened when I spend the ordinary, but special moments with them. They share the peace of hearts that they have been building for the past 18 years with me. I truly am happy.

We Are Under Recruitment of Participants

The time had passed, and it was time to find three reconciliation pairs that join our research for data collection starting July 5th. First, we visited Rweru Village, one of the villages that PFR maintains. There were about 5-6 leaders of the village waiting for us. Taking time, I explained my own research as well as the method and the procedure, and asked for questions. When I finally asked for participants, I said to Guma, my translator.

“I want the pair (of the victim and the perpetrator) to continuously spend time and work together for eight weeks. It is a long period of time, so we need people who can stay till the end. Also, it is desirable if the pair has some kind of negative relationship”.

Suddenly, Guma said “These two are the ones” and pointed at two people. There were a woman who was listening to me studiously for the last 20 minutes, and a large-built man with a smile. The leaders had already chosen an appropriate pair and brought them here.
It was too sudden that it took me a while to realize what he meant. I was startled next moment.

It had been three years since the day I stepped on the land of Rwanda, witnessed the wounds of the Genocide and the struggles with reconciliation, and promised myself to bring Morita Therapy to this country. They were the first people who experienced the new reconciliation process and are willing to share their experience with me.
“Yoroshikuonegaishimasu” (thank you in advance, I’m looking forward to working with you), I said in Japanese even though I am used to talking in English. Since there is no translation for this word, I could only said “thank you”. I shook their hands and bowed deeply. The man put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry. We can show you what reconciliation really is”. I appreciated his words.

Afterwards, we also visited Mbyo Village. Here, we needed to find two pairs of participants. About 30 people were already assembled and waiting for us.
Like Rweru, I explained my research, methods and procedures, and asked for participation. One pair raised their hands right away. I held their hands and said “Yoroshikuonegaishimasu”. Guru only said “thank you” for me.

The leader of the village asked, “Would anyone else like to volunteer?” Everyone stayed silent for a while. The leader said again, “Everyone, please be open-minded and help them out”.

I felt sorry for making them think about joining this unfamiliar research.

Guma, who was talking to someone quietly, said to me, “Okay Masa, the last pair is those two”. There was a woman with a red turban who was too shy to look straight at me, and a man with an expressionless face. I walked toward them and took the woman’s hand, saying “Murakoze” (thank you). Then, I faced toward the man and said “Murakoze” again, trying to take his hand as well. He held my right hand with his, pointed at me and said “Amasaka!!”. I gasped again. It was the man who gave me the Rwandan name other day! He was trying to help me with my research. His eyes talked me, “Let me help you, it’s for you, Masa”. When I saw his kind smile, I felt that our hearts were connected to each other. I was grateful.

I said to all pairs, “For next 10 weeks, I would like to learn what reconciliation is from you as the teachers”. One of the “teachers” said back, “Not just for next 10 weeks, but I hope our relationship lasts longer”. Maybe it is hard to communicate in the foreign language, but hearts can connect to each other. This time is for the purpose of research, but they are the “teachers” whom I share 10 weeks of my life together.

I learned the importance of building relationships and the connection of heart to heart. It was a day of miracle.