John enters the room with his hands clasped high on his chest. He sits across from Chantale and begins the conversation they both have been afraid of for years.
"I did a terrible thing to you by killing your father, who was my neighbor and my friend," John says. "I had even helped prepare the feast when he received confirmation in the church. But the evil one invaded my life, and I committed this horrible crime of killing your father. I'm falling before you, begging for mercy for the crime I committed."
John, one of the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that left over 1 million dead, doesn't get much sympathy—much less mercy—from his victim.
Chantale, still grieving the loss of her father all these years later, looks straight at John and says calmly, "It was meaningless to have you arrested. I regret that."
There would be no forgiveness that day. Perhaps later.
So goes one of the powerful scenes in As We Forgive, a new documentary by Laura Waters Hinson, who followed John and Chantale and others to tell the remarkable story of reconciliation taking place—slowly but surely—in Rwanda.
While on a church exchange trip to Rwanda in 2005, Hinson learned that some perpetrators of the genocide—more than 50,000 of them, including John, were freed from prison without trial—were building houses for their victims.
Rwanda is densely populated, with more than 10 million living in an area smaller than Maryland. So, Hinson says, "For a murderer to be released from prison to go home, he was really going to be shoulder to shoulder with people whose families he killed."
Hinson, a budding young filmmaker, wanted to tell those stories, but when she returned less than a year later with a camera crew, she found ...1