‘Northern Ireland needs to learn about reconciliation from the people of Rwanda,’ says Belfast author Tony Macaulay

This week I travelled to Rwanda to learn about the remarkable work of reconciliation that has happened there since the terrible genocide. I believe the rest of the world, including Northern Ireland, has a lot to learn from Rwanda about forgiveness and reconciliation after the horrors of violence.

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This week I’ve seen and heard things I’ll never forget. I couldn’t bring myself to take photographs of most of it. But this is one of the churches I visited, where more than 3,000 men, women and children were sheltering from the genocide before it was attacked and they were massacred. I will never forget seeing their clothes, their schoolbooks, their shoes and hundreds of skulls and bones in mass graves. In 1994 a million people were killed in a hundred days.
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But the genocide is not the end of the story of Rwanda. There is great hope in the remarkable stories of reconciliaton since those horrific days. I was privileged to visit a local village in the beautiful hills to hear stories of forgiveness and reconciliation from perpetrators and survivors of the genocide. This is the work of CARSA
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Northern Ireland and the whole world has so much to learn from the love, strength and dignity of the people who told me their painful stories.
Another CARSA project I saw in action was ‘Cows for Peace’. This begins in trauma, healing and forgiveness workshops and ends by providing a survivor and perpetrator of the genocide with the shared responsibility of a cow.
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Northern Ireland has had peace for twenty years, but our reconciliation has been limited, superficial and faltering compared to the courageous survivors and perpetrators in Rwanda. Northern Ireland needs to learn from Rwanda what true reconcilation after violence looks like and feels like.

As a result of this challenge, I’m committed, with a small team of other volunteers from aroudn the world, to developing a Rwanda Peace & Reconciliation Centre. Our vision is to establsih an international centre to share the Rwandan experience of forgiveness between survivors and perpetrators of genocide with post conflict communites around the world.

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