Remembering Rwanda: A Lesson in the Power of Forgiveness

Remembering Rwanda, A Lesson in Forgiveness
07 Apr 2014

Today—April 7, 2014—is the 20th Anniversary of the Rwanda genocide. As someone of Ugandan and Rwandese descent, I feel the weight of what happened those many years ago and ask myself: how do I do my part to ensure that this atrocity is never forgotten, and then what is my responsibility in making sure that the kind of hate that allowed the genocide to happen is stamped out by love?

Left to Tell: Remembering God Amidst the Rwandan HolocaustDuring the time of the genocide, I only remember hearing a few stories here and there about what was happening in the country of my mother's birth. At that time, I was getting ready to graduate from high school in the U.S. As we now know, there was very little media coverage of the mass killings and for those that knew and could do something, they stood by and quietly turned their backs on one million Rwandans. It wasn't until I read Immaculée Ilibagiza's New York Times bestselling book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust that I began to really understand what had happened 20 years ago in Rwanda—and how it had all happened so quickly.

Rather than going into details about the genocide, I think it's more powerful to focus on Immaculée's journey during a time which, not only was she being hunted down by hate-filled killers, she would later find out that all but one of her five family members was slaughtered. Stuck hiding in a tiny bathroom in the house of a family friend for 91 days with seven other women, Immaculée—a devout Catholic—used the power of prayer to survive the most terrifying experience of her life.

In those 91 days where the women were lucky to get food every now and then and could not speak for fear of being found out, Immaculée clasped tightly on to the last thing her father gave her before they were separated in this life: his rosary. Using the rosary as a tool to keep her focused on her spiritual life despite what was going on around her, she was able to find peace, grace and most importantly—forgiveness of those who were committing the killings. She would need it, because what awaited her once she left that bathroom with the seven women and escaped to safety was devastating.

What would you do if you found out that almost your entire family was killed by people who you had grown up knowing as friends and neighbors? How would you cope with the loss of the security and happiness of the life that you knew with your close-knit family?

In reading this book, my greatest lesson was in understanding the power of forgiveness to release us from our self-imposed prisons. Immaculée not only managed to find it in her heart to forgive the men who killed her family, she even went so far as to visit one of them in jail and verbally offer her forgiveness—an act that released her to eventually allow love back into her life. She is now a world-renowned author, speaker, philanthropist, and mother and considers herself blessed beyond measure.

Outside of the memorials country-wide that exist to ensure Rwandans never forget what happened on this fateful day 20 years ago, there is little that remains of the devastation that destroyed this small East African country. Instead, you'll find Rwandans from all backgrounds living and working side by side, going on with their lives and allowing the healing that started after the genocide to continue. In fact, in a very short space of time, the country has turned around its economy and is now seen is one of the easiest places to do business in the world, even ahead of the U.S. As with all places, nothing is perfect—not even in Rwanda, but my people are a testament to what can happen when you allow hate to be replaced by the boundless power of love and forgiveness.

How has the power of forgiveness changed your life?


Visit the Kwibuka20, the Rwanda 20th Anniversary memorial site for the genocide.


Julian B. Kiganda

I hope you enjoyed this post! A little about me: I’m the founder of Bold & Fearless and a Transformational Brand Strategist. My gifting is in helping purpose-driven women transform and build million-dollar brands. I’m also an author, transformational speaker and multi-passionate entrepreneur. In 2014, I published my first highly-acclaimed book co-authored with my sister: Whose Shoes Are You Wearing? 12 Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be available on Barnes & Noble and Amazon. To learn more about how you can connect or work with me, visit


  1. […] more than three months. Justus Uwayesu was only three years old when his parents were killed in the genocide that left him and his brother orphans. His survival of the genocide, in and of itself, was a […]

  2. Miz Kpoto Says: April 7, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Thank you for writing about this. I always get upset with the selective media coverage of atrocities happening in this world. I always tell myself, if there is no oil or direct interest for the world powers then little to no coverage. I say this as a Liberian. We went through a decade long civil war. Forgiveness is something that can be hard. I admit that there are times when pride gets in the way. I admire Immaculée and her ability someone who took her family away from her. That takes courage.

    • Julian B. Kiganda Says: April 7, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      Miz Kpoto, thanks so much for your comment. It's so true that the coverage on atrocities such as this are very selective. This is why it's so important for those of us who care about these issues to do our part to write about, tweet about, Facebook about them. Over the past few years, the power of social media has been effectively put to use to push for awareness and change on issues we would otherwise may have never heard about.

      Forgiveness is hard, but it's easier than holding on to the anger that eventually poisons your spirit. As with all things, anything is possible through Christ. Be blessed!

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