What happens when hundreds of thousands of people who committed genocide leave prison and return to the communities where they perpetrated violence? This might sound like the plot of a dystopian novel, but in Rwanda, it is reality.
Twenty-five years ago this month, Rwanda crumbled as violence swept across the country. Although political leaders orchestrated the genocide, several hundred thousand Hutu civilians participated by killing or raping members of the Tutsi minority. After the genocide ended, the new Rwandan government created a court system to hold those civilians accountable. Roughly 312,000 trials resulted in prison sentences — including 15,444 life sentences — propelling Rwanda to one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.
Over the past few years, tens of thousands of the convicted genocidaires have been completing their sentences and returning to their communities — once again becoming neighbors to families they harmed.
In 2017, we traveled to Rwanda to find out how these people and their communities are managing this tense situation. Since then, we have been following nearly 200 returning citizens from their final days in prison to their lives back in their communities.
What we learned about their experiences surprised us and taught us about the human capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation.
When we first met Protais, one of the returning genocidaires we interviewed, he was completing his sentence and preparing to return home and rejoin his wife. He expected to be met with hostility upon return, telling us he assumed members of the community hated him. Instead, he found “an amazing situation beyond any comparison.” Neighbors came from “near and far” to welcome him home.
Protais’ experience was not unique. Another man, Straton served almost 21 years in prison for murdering three people. When he was released, he could barely recognize his surroundings because of Rwanda’s vast economic growth. Dirt roads had been paved and new buildings were everywhere, meaning he ultimately had to ask strangers how to find his house. There, he found his wife and children, and after a joyous reunion, the next few days were full of pleasant surprises. “There are people that I never expected to help or to greet me, and they did it … Neighbors would come with Fanta. Some friends would come and give me small amounts of money.”
Fidele, who had killed a person in his village, was able to notify his wife and children when he completed his 22-year sentence. They met him at the bus stop and guided him home while his wife reintroduced him to neighbors they passed on the way. “The following day, some of these neighbors came to my house,” Fidele recalled. “They came and we shared. Each of them contributed money for one bottle of alcohol.” A few days later, Fidele even visited a sibling of the person he killed. Though he was nervous, they went to a bar together and talked. In his words, “We shared a glass.”
We initially had trouble believing these stories. But, we found them to be remarkably common, and we often witnessed warm greetings with our own eyes. Neighbors, including survivors and their families, visit the former prisoners and bring beans, bananas, Fanta, and other small gifts to welcome them back to their communities. Sometimes, neighbors even help to sustain returning citizens who would otherwise have no food to eat.
What could explain such an unlikely, friendly welcome? Much of the answer lies in where many Rwandans place blame for the genocide. Sources like public school curriculums and government-run memorials paint a complex picture of the violence as rooted in Belgian colonial rule that exacerbated divisions between Hutu and Tutsi. These sources also highlight the “bad governments” that discriminated against Tutsi and encouraged violence during the genocide. By placing blame on historical colonialism and governments, this dominant narrative removes some of the responsibility from the individuals who perpetrated the violence on the ground — especially the uneducated farmers who claim they were acting out of fear or were following orders.
This does not mean that those returning are not culpable for their actions or that the country’s deep wounds are healed. Many survivors deal with painful memories and trauma on a daily basis. Former prisoners also face problems like most other previously incarcerated people as they struggle to return to their former lives. Many do not have enough food or a place to live, and some people’s spouses and children have disowned them for what they did. Such stories of hardship are especially common among the women we have interviewed, who are particularly likely to face abandonment from spouses and economic woes.
Yet we do not believe that these general hardships take away from our broader finding of acceptance and generosity on behalf of neighbors, community members and survivors. Healing from such unimaginable trauma will always be a work in progress, but it is happening.
There are lessons here for other nations as well, including the United States. The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized country in the world and despite recent advances, much of the stigma attached to a felony conviction remains. Our prevailing ethos of individualism means that we tend to place all of the blame for an individual’s crime squarely on their shoulders without questioning how powerful people and structures constrain the choices available to the least powerful people. To be clear, we do not suggest that people who commit crimes are blameless, or that the predominant narrative of the genocide in Rwanda is without fault. Instead, we highlight how emphasizing complex causes of violence humanizes perpetrators in meaningful ways.
The survivors of crimes should not have to be the ones who try to understand why someone committed violence. Moreover, survivors should not feel obligated to welcome the very people who killed their friends and family members. But, in Rwanda, many are. And the small acts we have witnessed, such as visiting a returning neighbor with a Fanta, convey a much larger message: 25 years after one of the world’s most atrocious instances of mass violence, peace and reconciliation are possible.
Hollie Nyseth Brehm is an assistant professor of sociology and Laura C. Frizzell is a graduate student at Ohio State University.
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【第】【二】【百】【八】【十】【章】 【晚】【饭】【的】【时】【候】【都】【还】【没】【见】【莫】【恒】【和】【莫】【星】【月】，【吃】【完】【回】【房】【休】【息】【的】【时】【候】【他】【们】【才】【刚】【到】。 【白】【皛】【出】【来】【之】【前】【跟】【平】【台】【请】【了】【假】，【但】【只】【请】【了】【一】【个】【星】【期】，【后】【来】【实】【在】【不】【好】【再】【拖】，【只】【能】【让】【莫】【于】【声】【给】【她】【搞】【了】【一】【套】【设】【备】【过】【来】，【晚】【上】【就】【在】【房】【里】【直】【播】。 【而】【莫】【星】【月】【在】【院】【里】【大】【叫】“【大】【嫂】”【的】【时】【候】，【她】【正】【在】【开】【着】【语】【音】，【一】【边】【打】【游】【戏】，【一】【边】【跟】【几】【百】【万】
【染】【血】【的】【旌】【旗】，【散】【发】【着】【无】【尽】【之】【威】。 【战】【刀】【铮】【铮】【而】【鸣】，【无】【尽】【锋】【芒】【欲】【斩】【九】【天】。 【天】【地】【虚】【空】，【一】【株】【青】【莲】【拔】【地】【而】【起】，【照】【耀】【万】【古】【尘】【世】。 【煌】【煌】【之】【威】，**【天】【地】。 【这】【一】【刻】，【众】【人】【都】【被】【镇】【住】【了】。 【毕】【竟】，【谁】【也】【没】【有】【想】【到】【一】【支】【小】【小】【的】【北】【城】【猎】【妖】【会】【之】【上】，【竟】【然】【会】【藏】【龙】【卧】【虎】，【最】【重】【要】【的】【是】，【这】【些】【人】【居】【然】【是】【孤】【身】【前】【往】，【并】【没】【有】【家】【族】【强】【者】
“【哎】，【回】【来】，【别】【着】【急】，【我】【们】【已】【经】【让】【人】【守】【在】【那】【里】【了】。”【唐】【妈】【妈】【赶】【紧】【拉】【住】【要】【往】【外】【冲】【的】【唐】【芯】。 【要】【不】【是】【自】【己】【一】【直】【都】【在】【锻】【炼】，【加】【上】【最】【近】【唐】【芯】【体】【力】【稍】【有】【变】【差】，【不】【然】【还】【真】【的】【拉】【不】【住】【她】。 “【你】【们】【派】【了】【谁】？”【唐】【芯】【看】【着】【自】【己】【认】【识】【的】【人】【都】【聚】【在】【这】【里】，【差】【点】【问】，【派】【去】【的】【人】【可】【靠】【吗】？【心】【脏】【在】【砰】【砰】【砰】【的】【直】【跳】。 “【请】【的】【职】【业】【保】【镖】，【放】【宽】【心】【吧】彩霸王论“【怎】【么】【个】【查】【资】【料】，【这】【种】【书】【你】【有】？”【尉】【迟】【恭】【抬】【杠】【的】【说】【到】“【这】【种】【书】【也】【就】。。。” “【我】【怎】【么】【吧】【这】【老】【家】【伙】【给】【忘】【了】。”【尉】【迟】【恭】【的】【话】【说】【了】【一】【半】【之】【后】【猛】【地】【一】【拍】【大】【腿】。 【这】【个】【时】【候】【所】【有】【人】【的】【目】【光】【都】【集】【中】【在】【了】【程】【咬】【金】【的】【身】【上】，【都】【在】【等】【他】【说】【话】。【毕】【竟】【这】【一】【叫】【人】【的】【话】【他】【这】【东】【西】【就】【得】【出】【手】【了】。 “【请】【人】【吧】”【程】【咬】【金】【想】【了】【想】【然】【后】【下】【定】【决】【心】
【杜】【宇】【到】【达】【鱼】【龙】【洞】【的】【时】【候】，【基】【本】【已】【经】【人】【去】【楼】【空】，【只】【剩】【下】【一】【些】【修】【为】【低】【下】【的】【修】【士】。 【从】【他】【们】【的】【口】【中】，【杜】【宇】【也】【知】【道】【了】【天】【元】【宗】【圣】【女】【柳】【萱】【妃】【降】【临】【的】【事】【情】。 【虽】【然】【有】【天】【元】【宗】【的】【圣】【女】【参】【与】，【但】【杜】【宇】【倒】【也】【没】【有】【太】【大】【的】【担】【心】。 【他】【的】【目】【的】【主】【要】【是】【地】【狱】【毒】【蛟】【的】【能】【量】【跟】【柳】【萱】【妃】，【三】【十】【六】【洞】【天】【并】【不】【冲】【突】。 …… “【这】【地】【狱】【毒】【蛟】【不】【是】【荒】【兽】，
【夏】【侯】【申】【回】【到】【住】【处】，【依】【旧】【是】【紧】【跟】【马】【业】【府】【邸】【一】【墙】【之】【隔】【的】【院】【子】。【夏】【侯】【申】【看】【过】【了】【信】【件】，【不】【敢】【怠】【慢】，【直】【接】【到】【霍】【伤】【歇】【息】【处】，【柳】【明】【在】【门】【口】【掌】【灯】【守】【候】【着】，【不】【远】【处】【柳】【青】【的】【呼】【噜】【打】【的】【震】【天】【响】。 【柳】【明】【见】【夏】【侯】【申】【过】【来】，【起】【身】【便】【问】：“【夏】【侯】【头】【领】【何】【事】？” 【夏】【侯】【申】【道】：“【柳】【兄】【弟】，【急】【事】，【实】【在】【要】【打】【扰】【老】【主】【子】【歇】【息】。” 【柳】【明】【见】【夏】【侯】【申】【一】【脸】【急】【色】