• Wednesday, 24 July 2024
Josiane Umulinga: From Tragedy To Triumph – A Story Of Forgiveness And Resilience

Josiane Umulinga: From Tragedy To Triumph – A Story Of Forgiveness And Resilience

Josiane Umulinga’s childhood was one of joy and abundance, surrounded by a large family of nine children and both of her parents. She fondly recalls her life before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda as filled with cheerfulness and contentment, with family and friends always close by.

“Our home was always occupied due to constant visitors. At times, especially during school holidays, we would fill the floor with mattresses like in boarding schools so as to accommodate guests,” she reminisces, highlighting how this experience taught her the true essence of love and sharing whatever little one has.

However, Umulinga’s peaceful life took a devastating turn as she approached her fifteenth birthday when the genocide erupted, claiming the lives of her mother and five siblings. Amidst the chaos, her father and one sister sought refuge in Burundi, while another sibling found safety in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the help of a good Samaritan, where they lived as refugees before returning home.

Umulinga, along with her young sister and uncle, endured a harrowing journey of survival, facing unimaginable horrors along the way.

“It has been thirty years, but I still remember my family vividly, and I must say I am grateful for their memory since I know some survivors who can’t recall even the smallest details of their loved ones,” she reflects.

Struggle for Survival

Having lost her mother, five siblings, and other family members she dearly loved, Umulinga acknowledges that life after the genocide was filled with numerous challenges.

Umulinga’s book, ‘Survived to Forgive,’ chronicles her journey towards forgiveness and healing, aiming to inspire others to find healing and reconciliation in the aftermath of trauma.

“My father, who survived the genocide but later died, would always encourage my remaining siblings and I to write about our tragic experience. I am happy that I have honoured his wish,” she observed during the book launch in Nairobi last week.

On why she chose to forgive those who murdered her family members, the Umulinga recalls the last words of her mother before her untimely demise, urging her to “run and pray, run and pray.”

She found solace in prayer, and through it, she learned that forgiveness doesn’t absolve the wrongdoer but rather frees the wronged.

Josiane Umulinga, author of ‘Survived to Forgive’, shares her journey to healing and forgiveness after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. /COURTESY.

“Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, nor is it a form of condoning or excusing harmful behaviour. It is a way to free ourselves from the shackles of resentment and anger. I chose to cultivate my pain to harvest my destiny,” she explains.

Umulinga, now a mother of three, acknowledges that forgiveness is a complex and deeply personal process, emphasizing that there are no easy solutions or quick fixes. However, she asserts that “it is possible to find healing, even in the darkest of times.”

Countering Genocide Denial

Benon Karisa, a diplomat at the Rwanda High Commission in Kenya who represented the High Commissioner at the event, urged genocide survivors to document their survival stories through books and other means. He highlighted the critical role such documentation plays in countering genocide denial and revisionism.

“Genocide perpetrators and their sympathisers have embarked on the last stage of genocide, which is denial. The best way to counter this vice is to document such real-life experience during our country’s dark history, and this is a collective responsibility,” he stressed.

Further, Karisa emphasized that genocide was not an abrupt event, as some genocide deniers claim, but rather a meticulously planned atrocity by the genocidal government aimed at exterminating the Tutsi, resulting in the loss of a million innocent lives in just a hundred days.

As Rwanda prepares to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi, Kenyan officials who were at the book launch event hailed the country’s remarkable progress over the years, commending its visionary leadership.

“We need to thank the leadership of Rwanda for the courage and strength that have created a country which is becoming a shining jewel in Africa. We learn a lot from Rwanda and her people, that you can live with your adversary when you forgive. It is through all these attributes that the country has made significant leaps,” said Kimutai Keitany, an official at State House.

Hassan Omar Hassan, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), also made the same observation, underscoring that Rwanda is a beacon of unity and resilience. He highlighted the importance of unity and solidarity across East African member states and the entire continent in overcoming challenges.

“This is how we will overcome our immense challenges as a region and a continent,” he said.

Also present at the event was nominated Senator Halake Abshiro, among other senior officials.

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