Rwanda, Confession, and Reconcilliation

As many Rwandans say, forgiving is an effort that one makes in order to make life livable, especially since victims and the ex-prisoners have to live together as neighbors again. (— from Reconciliation still a major challenge

Rwanda has too many guilty people for “classic justice” — it just “didn’t meet expectations”. Classic justice is having trouble dealing with the hundreds of thousands of genociders that will show up in court. The guilty and the victims are everywhere. So Rwanda has implemented public confession, after a fashion, in the form of its Gacaca courts. Confess, and your sentence will be reduced. Still, as the quote above hints, it isn’t always easy. Victims and perpetrators have to live next door and they can be a danger to each other.

Describing the experiences of living in the same communities, some survivors said that despite having forgiven and reconciled, they found it hard to look each other in the eye.

Tonight, after confession, my priest told me “Confession is easy, relationships are hard”. I immediately thought of this article. Confession, giving voice to your sin, seems so easy, but we have to do it so often. Screw up, confess. Screw up, confess. Repeat ad infinitum, it seems. Because confession is so easy and does not, in and of itself, mean change, it is nothing compared with going back and reconciling with the one you wronged. When I’ve hurt my wife, she isn’t satisfied that I’ve gone to confession. She wants real change. When the man who killed your family confesses to his crime and has his sentence reduced or forgiven completely, you aren’t going to be satisfied when he moves in beside you. You want real change. (And probably, if we’re honest, some “classic”, retributive justice.) Confession is easy. Reconciliation is hard.

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