Vol. 8, No. 12
~ Page 11 ~
A friend recently shared a book entitled Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In her heartrending story, Immaculee gives an account of her horrific experiences and those of her family, friends and tribesmen during those 100 days when about 1 million Tutsis (including nearly all of her family and friends) were being massacred by the Hutus.
Survivors were few and far between. Some were able to get out of the country and join others who were refugees from previous conflicts decades earlier. Some hid in the woods, eating leaves and grass or whatever they could find. A few were able to find refuge as they were hidden and provided for by moderate Hutus who disagreed with all the killing being prompted by the government in Kigali. For the few who were willing to do so, to hide Tutsis put themselves and their own families at incredible risk. This is how Immaculee was able to survive as she and a few other ladies were stowed away in a small concealed bathroom for three months by a preacher near her town. The militia (whether by tens or hundreds) came unannounced to the preacher's house any hour of the day or night in effort to find Immaculee (as they called out her name) and other Tutsis they believed were hidden there.
It is hard for us to comprehend such egregious behavior, the ferocious, animal-like actions produced by ill-will and deep-seated hatred that can find its place in the human heart. People who had been neighbors and friends previously were now divided through ignorance and prejudice. Hutus turned on their Tutsi neighbors calling them snakes and cockroaches that needed to be literally exterminated.
How terribly unfortunate it is that in this modern era we still have men, women and young people throughout the world who are bloodthirsty, who long to kill and utterly destroy another race or nationality of people in the name of God or their religion. This shows clearly the distinction between the true God, who has revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures, and the false gods that many still follow through ignorance.
The true and living God does not sanction violence, genocide or "ethnic cleansing." God, our Heavenly Father, is a God of love and he teaches his followers to be as he is.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)
This religion of self-supremacy, prejudice, hatred and murder prevalent in our day gives us as Christians the opportunity even now to "shine as lights" in a world of darkness (Philippians 2:15). We must show the world that hatred, violence and the murder of innocent people is not the way to find purpose and meaning in life, and further does not lead to some outstanding reward with God in the afterlife, but rather just the opposite. Jesus teaches us to look at the fruits being produced. Destruction, rape, kidnapping and murder do not honor or please the God who made the world.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of all in Immaculee's book revolves around her challenge to have a forgiving spirit toward those who had permanently turned her world upside down, and see the peace she has found in her heart by doing so. One cannot overestimate the power and inherent blessing that forgiveness brings. Jesus teaches us through precept and example to forgive those who trespass against us (Luke 17:4; 23:34). What a great lesson and example Immaculee gives to generations living today and in the future.
The Gospel of Christ is still the message our world desperately needs to bring peace and reconciliation to those who find themselves enemies. Just as the Gospel brought Jew and Gentile together (in "one body" and made peace) during the days of the first century, so the Gospel remains and will be as long as this world stands the power of God unto salvation and reconciliation (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 2:11-18). Christianity alone can make ours a better world, but the conquest can only be made by "the sword of the Spirit" (which is the Word of God) through teaching the doctrine of Christ. One by one, we can make a positive difference for God.