Amy Sullivan, a senior editor at Time and author of The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap, participated in a panel after the screening. She pointed out that, although many religions teach forgiveness, “Christianity puts it into hyperdrive, with Jesus forgiving those who killed him from the cross.” And indeed the element of biblical faith is an important factor in the success of reconciliation in Rwanda, where Catholicism is the majority faith.
Thus we see Rosario reading her Bible. “How can I refuse to forgive when I’m a forgiven sinner too? . . . I did not create this man. Even my family that he killed — I did not create them either. His crime was against God, who created the people that he killed. So I placed everything in the hands of God.”
Bishop Rucyahana, president of Prison Fellowship Rwanda,
says, “Many people ask me why should a survivor of the genocide forgive . . . when you consider that a million people got destroyed by the cruelest means ever known, hacking people to death with machetes and banging children on the walls. First of all, forgiveness releases them. . . . The desire for bitter justice against those perpetrators is so great and that eats them up. When they forgive . . . it releases them, and then they can think right. . . . Those perpetrators, after they get forgiven, come to us and say, ‘Can you help us to do something to show our remorse?’ And now they are building houses for their victims.” Saveri spent eight months helping build a village of 30 new homes, including one for Rosario, in hopes of proving his remorse. (This home-building project continues; you can see it at Living Bricks Campaign
So, yes, I got a little teary. But not, as I’d expected, at the images of skulls stacked on shelves, the children’s bodies on the ground, a corpse bobbing down the river. What touched me was the unexpected beauty of forgiveness, the victory of love over evil, the bursting of light into darkness. When Hotel Rwanda was newly released, I read a comment in Roger Ebert’s review that has stuck with me ever after. He wrote, “Deep movie emotions for me usually come not when the characters are sad, but when they are good. You will see what I mean.” It’s true. Watch As We Forgive; I think you’ll see it too.
– Frederica Mathewes-Green writes regularly for Beliefnet.com, Christianity Today, and other publications. She is the author of Gender: Men, Women, Sex and Feminism, among other books.