Later coming face to face with the killer of her mother and brother, she said to him, “I forgive you.” So often our human response is to punish in return, to rail against the storm without to attempt to quell the storm within. Rather than being crushed by the enemy and remade in his hateful image, she released him, and it released her. Immaculee realized retaliating would only add fuel to a fire that would destroy them both.
After reading things terrible to think about but impossible to forget, I’ve come to the conclusion that forgiveness requires great courage. It’s been said that courage is fear that has said its prayers, but it’s not something you can just grab for in a time of need and expect it to be handy; it has to be something you build a life around. Courage, faith, and love gave this remarkable woman an inner security against which all outside battering was powerless. Her forgiveness was an act of self-healing not tied to this man’s response, but essential for her to move forward with hope, courage and peace.
She immigrated to the United States in 1998, told her story in a book, Left to Tell, in 2006, and now works with the United Nations heading a charity to help children of that tragic genocide. She sets such a wonderful example for us in how to live extraordinarily during horrendous times and how to be truly forgiving. But most impressive to me, she reminded me of our obligation, once over our own hurdles, to help others. What a lesson! Immaculee, I’m in your debt.
“If every man would mend a man, then all the world would be mended.” –Anonymous