Rwandan Reconciliation In Pictures

Pictures communicate. In fact, it is often claimed that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The actual expression, however, is “a picture’s meaning can express ten thousand words.” The problem with the first expression is that it wrongly pits words and pictures against one another. In actuality, words and pictures communicate in concord so that the picture provides the melody to the words, be it praise or thanksgiving or joy, on the one hand, or grief, lament or sorrow, on the other, or something in between.

One of the important ways in which the Rwandan people have been able to live with the reality of the genocide (one never moves beyond it but learns to live with it) is through the difficult and anguishing reality of confession/repentance and forgiveness. Apart from repentance, there would be no forgiveness. Apart from forgiveness, there would be no life.

Reconciliation is the heart of the gospel (Rom. 5:1; 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Eph. 2:11-22). It is the gospel of Jesus Christ alone by which we are reconciled to God. And having been reconciled with God through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are reconciled with one another. The horizontal reconciliation with others is the manifestation or the fruit of the vertical reconciliation with God. This is also at the heart of what has happened among many Rwandans.

A short time ago a photographer traveled to Rwanda to capture in picture life 20 years after the genocide. Each picture contains two people, one “perpetrator” (a Hutu who confessed personal crime/sin/offense) and one “survivor” (a Tutsi who granted forgiveness).  Each picture also contains brief testimonies of those photographed. You will note in the pictures there are varying degrees of warmth and emotion between the two individuals. The photographer observed that “there are clearly different degrees of forgiveness. In the photographs, the distance or closeness you see is pretty accurate.” As noted in this collage, Portraits of Reconciliation, “reconciliation still happens one encounter at a time.”

Look at the pictures. Read their words. Then look at the pictures again.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only ground of and for reconciliation, and it is also the only hope for reconciliation. Receive it. Believe it. Proclaim it. Live it.

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