This day was perhaps the most unique and most enriching experience of the trip so far. This day we were to travel to a prison camp. This was far from anything you might expect. When we first got there it was awkward. It was intimidating considering these men had once participated in a genocide. Tons of questions ran through my head. Were these men angry were they still in denial? Did they resent us being there? As we spent more time there and Carl and drew helped begin a conversation between us and the prisoners. these questions went away. After the initial fear went away I didn't even think about how these men's criminal history at that time they were just people with stories just like the rest of us. This experience was truly amazing. The prisoners sense of community is so strong. This is an open air camp with no fences or chains or even armed guards, the prisoners could even interact with the local village folk, the children and they could even go home ten days and sometimes more for special events each year. They always came back. It was mind boggling considering our justice system in America. Such a thing would never happen in America. Lock them up! Throw away the Key! They are criminals! They're evil! They're animals! No These are Men, yes men who committed terrible crimes at one point but they are men all the same, they are not their crimes.
When can we let forgiveness into our hearts? We do not have to fear forgiveness because it does not mean we are excusing or forgetting the deeds, it means we are giving ourselves and the perpetrator permission to go on living. The people of Rwanda are a true inspiration for forgiveness. These prisoners danced for us and with them danced Pelle, the woman in charge of all corrections in all of Rwanda. This moment brought tears to my eyes and I don't just say that it did actually happen.
I pray that one day too in America the Prisoner may dance with the guard, I pray that the perpetrator may dance with the victim, I pray that the lion may lay down with the lamb. May Rwanda be a testimony for us. Violence only begets violence, Hatred only begets hatred but so too can Love beget love.
We shared in common humanity with these men as we performed for them in the rain and as they all helped us get our bus out of the mud and up the mountain.
We must always remember the vast potential inside each and every one of us for great evil and for great goodness.