Testimony of Sizeli Marcelin during worship on Tuesday, 24 April 2012
I am from Rwanda Yearly Meeting. I am one who has met Jesus and I am one of the peacemakers in my country
This world and those who live in it experience horrible disasters: earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and other natural calamities strike the earth; wars, disease, and epidemics attack people. Afterward, many people experience severe depression that causes them to long for death. The world is in very difficult times, but for the countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa, it is very bad. Most of you probably know about what is happening in Congo and Burundi, and that in Rwanda, where I am from, we experienced genocide in 1994
I, the one standing here in front of you, am one of four survivors in my family. Of my extended family members, 92 died in the genocide, leaving only myself and three of my children (one is here with us, Silvie Umutoniwase). I survived, but I didn’t know for two months that my children had survived. During that whole time I thought I was the only one. My heart that was completely broken, full of sadness and pain, full of hatred, desire for revenge and other feelings a person who lost 92 family members would feel.
When I fully realized that I had survived, I experienced the Light shining in all these places in my heart. This power I experienced was not human power but power from God
Fifteen days after the genocide began, in a place where we fled for refuge, I met others who had even worse wounds than my own; some had lost every single family member. I comforted them and encouraged them to persevere. After a while, I returned to where I had lived: the houses had been destroyed and there was no food or clothing, but the hardest thing was hearing that those who had killed your relatives were now searching to kill you.
Still I continued the ministry of helping, comforting and encouraging the survivors to persevere. (Later, I also helped the killers to not be afraid and taught them that they needed to ask for forgiveness for what they did in the genocide.) Eventually, as people began coming out from where they had taken refuge, the Evangelical Friends Church of Rwanda resumed its ministry, preaching the gospel and helping with the extreme problems. This helped me to see that I wasn’t alone and led me to continue the ministry of reconciling people to each other and healing the wounds in people’s hearts.
I want to use this opportunity to thank Malesi Kinaro who, during that difficult time in Rwanda, came to teach us how to help our people who experienced trauma. Her coming was very important for us
In partnership with the Evangelical Friends Church we continued the work of reconciling Rwandans to each other. It was very difficult. Some people did not understand but we continued to comfort, teach and challenge them until they understood. In 1999, we saw a need to expand the ministry and, with support from Friends in Norway and other places, we began the Friends Peace House which has helped many Rwandans to reconcile and to be reintegrated into normal life. Christine and David Zarembke can witness to the work that the Friends Peace House is doing
I worked not only in the church, but also in the traditional justice system of Rwanda called gacaca, which helped to solve problems caused by the genocide, such as reintegrating released prisoners and counseling genocide survivors.
All of this was done through God’s power and His unbelievable grace. But the work continues. In a place where more than one million people died, the journey to solve problems is still very long. The children of the perpetrators need help with their studies so that they do not fall behind other students. Also orphans and widows need support and places to live. At this time, eighteen years since the genocide happened, many perpetrators who received sentences for seventeen to nineteen years are being released from prison. If we do nothing for them they could return to evil ways. As Friends we believe these needs must be prayed for and a tangible response given to them, not only in Rwanda, but also in the many other countries experiencing similar problems.
Thank you for listening