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This video of a Rwandan genocide survivor sharing his story of forgiveness will inspire you

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A man who saw his father murdered in front of him during the 1994 Rwandan genocide has spoken about his forgiveness of the people responsible.

Hyppolite Ntigurirwa was seven when his father was killed in the genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in a 100-day period. The majority of those murdered were Tutsis, and a great number of those who committed the violence were Hutus.

“Many people from my family were killed and some raped in front of me when I was a child,” he told attendees at the One Young World Conference in Bogota, Colombia.

“I saw my dad being killed and fed to the dogs to eat. I never even had a chance to bury him.”

Ntigurirwa survived the atrocities by hiding under dead bodies in mass graves. He says he “lived like a wild animal, hiding in the bush but always expecting that I would be killed.”

Ntigurirwa told his story to delegates at the conference to raise awareness of the importance of forgiveness in achieving lasting peace.

After the genocide was over, Ntigurirwa began to enjoy school and studying, but when he was 15, he could no longer afford the transport fare, and was forced to drop out.

“All the frustrations of my young life came to the surface,” he said.

“I started to imagine ways that I too could become a killer and avenge the deaths of my father, my relatives and the people of my village.

“I kept going back to the place where my father was killed.”

However, a chance encounter with a Conoglese doctor outside a hospital changed Ntigurirwa’s outlook completely.

“He spoke to me and helped me back to the right path and because of him I went back to school,” Ntigurirwa said.

“Everything changed in my mind as I realised that ethnicity was not what was killing us Rwandans but a hatred that resulted from an ideology that had been taught for generations before the genocide.”

Hyppolite Ntigurirwa speaking at the One Young World conference in Bogota, Colombia (PA)
Hyppolite Ntigurirwa speaking at the One Young World conference in Bogota, Colombia (PA)

It was with this revelation that Ntiguriwa chose to do something radical.

“I chose to forgive those people who killed my father, my relatives, my friends, and all those other innocent people,” he said.

“Now, I go back to the village where my mum still lives, and I visit the people who killed. Even those who killed my father. I shake hands with them, I even hug them and lift up their kids.”

He admits forgiving the men who butchered his father was not an easy thing to do.

“I have forgiven them not because forgiving is easy but because I want them and the world to learn the price of lasting peace,” he said.

“I believe peace is what you give, not what you ask others to give you.”

It was this belief that led Ntigurirwa to set up his peace initiative, Be The Peace, which uses art and debating to promote everyday peace in Rwandan schools. So far, 5,000 students from five schools have passed through the programme.

“This is not about children simply staying in class. It’s about taking peace messages back out into their communities,” said Ntigurirwa.

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