On Forgiving Murderers

On September 11th, Immaculee Ilibagiza challenged my perspective on life by giving a powerful speech about forgiveness and the power of the Catholic faith. She is a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 – a tragedy which took the lives of over one million residents of Rwanda in just three months. Immaculee shared her powerful message with over 1,400 people at Benedictine College this month, and I was one of them.

Nearly her entire family was murdered during the genocide while Immacule was safely concealed in a tiny bathroom with several other women. Her faith was tested immeasurably during that time, and she learned to trust in God like she never had before. He was all she had.

When the genocide ended, Immaculee was devastated when she learned her family was gone. The people who killed her loved ones did terribly evil things ripping apart people, and mercilessly cutting them to pieces. What they did was so barbaric, one has to wonder how it was possible to inflict so much pain on another human being. What Immaculee said was that the people who killed did not realize what they were doing. They were not evil people. They were blind to the truth. They were blind to this truth about life, she said, because they did not know love.

“Love,” she said “opens the ears of our hearts.” The hearts of the people who killed her family were not open to love (or the truth) because they had never known love. I see evil happening every day in the world, and people doing so much that is clearly wrong. Babies get ripped apart, women are lied to, and families are ruined. It’s easy to blame things on others and accuse them of being evil, wrong people. Some people are honestly borderline crazy, but in general people are hurting for the truth. Many choose to reject it because the truth is not easy. We reject it in different ways, and killing people is certainly a grave way of rejecting truth.

Immaculee’s speech made me sit back and realize that no matter what evil acts people commit, we are all still human. And God died for each one of us. We make bad choices, but that is part of what makes us human. Some people make graver mistakes than others, but we are all imperfect creations of God. It is in Him alone we will find peace when the world crashes down around us, and in Him alone we can always trust. It is hard to see the good when terrible things happen, but Immaculee helped me see that no matter what happens, we must respect others for being the imperfect humans God made us as. We make mistakes on our journey toward eternal life, but no matter what mistakes we humans make, love conquers all. God is Love.

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