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Last year I came across the story of Frida Gashumba. Her autobiography is called ‘Chosen to Die, Destined to Live – A miraculous escape from the Rwandan Genocide’. Her best friend Claudette was Hutu. Frida was Tutsi. One day at school the Head Teacher asked Hutus to stand. He then asked Tutsis to stand and counted them. The Hutu children laughed.

Claudette and Frida were neighbours. They played together. Their families spent time together; but when the killing began (in the 1994 genocide), suddenly, being Tutsi, or married to a Tutsi marked people out. Former neighbours turned on each other. Frida’s family were killed. Frida’s house was looted. Clothes, cutlery, bowls, plates and other possessions were taken – but amazingly Frida escaped. Thankfully, a Hutu neighbour did something brave that could get him killed. He helped Frida. She miraculously escaped death on several occasions, often shielded by Hutus who were ashamed of what was happening. Three months later, after the government was overthrown, the killing stopped. Frida was alive but mentally scarred, and alone. 1 Million had died. 300,000 children were left as Orphans. 85,000 children were now the heads of their families.

In the months that followed Frida became a Christian. Very painfully, and very slowly, she began to find some measure of emotional healing from God.

One day, Frida realised that she needed, and wanted, to forgive the man who had murdered her father. She visited him in prison but when she saw him she fled. Weeks later she returned and was able to talk with and amazingly, tell him she forgave him. Incredibly, Frida says that her faith in Jesus helped her to find a new peace, and that peace ‘increased immeasurably as she forgave the people who’d destroyed [her] life’.

Sometimes the teaching of Jesus is hard. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27); and “…forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). In the prayer Jesus taught his disciples he taught them to pray: “Forgive us our sins as we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4). Frida, in the most testing of circumstances, was putting that in to practice. She went to visit an old neighbour called Elina. As Frida sat in Elina’s home she could see cupboards taken from her own home, filled with her family’s plates, cups and glasses.

Elina’s children were wearing some of Frida’s old clothes. When Frida asked for a drink it was served in a glass she well-remembered, and as Elina realised, there was a moment of deep embarrassment; but Frida said, “I have not come to take anything from you. I have come to make peace with you.” Frida drank the water and prayed for Elina and her family, and in her own words, Frida says this: ‘My neighbour herself just shook her head and opened her mouth as if to speak, but she could not find any words. Shortly afterwards I left her home with these words: “Peace be with you.”’

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