After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
I have mentioned here several times in the past the amazing pair of books by Jean Hatzfeld about the Rwandan genocide. If you still haven't read Machete Season and Life Laid Bare, you should. The first explores the genocide through a series of conversations with the murderers; the second looks at the same events through interviews with the survivors. They are brutal books. Tales of nice normal people picking up machetes and hunting through swamps looking for their former neighbors in order to hack them to death. Day after day after day. It is hard to decide whether the accounts are more chilling when told by those who survived or those who spent a month killing their neighbors.
Hatzfeld has a third book. The Antelope’s Strategy. The subtitle: Living in Rwanda after the Genocide. The book picks up after an amazing turn of events. The genocide ended when the government fell. Not surprisingly, the killers are imprisoned. (Well, maybe it is surprising that they were imprisoned rather than executed.) But then, seven years later, with the agricultural fields throughout the country lying fallow, and a need for workers to grow food, the government announced that the killers would be released. They returned to their old homes, suddenly living side by side again with the very people they had formerly tried to murder.
So, imagine you live in a Rwandan Village. Take you pick: which is the harder situation?
1) You survived the genocide by hiding in the swamps, evading the butchers and now the very people who used to hunt you live next door—not just people like the people who hunted you, but the very same people;
2) You spent some time running through the swamps trying to kill people, and now you suddenly find yourself living next to someone whose family you hacked up with a machete and who only lives now because he evaded you.
Rwanda is full of people in both those situations. Hatzfeld interviews them. And the big question:
Can you forgive?
Is it even humanly possible to forgive in this situation? Is it humanly possible to love your neighbor as yourself in this situation? This is a gut-wrenching book in a very differ manner than the previous books by Hatzfeld. In those books, the reader is faced with the depths of the depravity of Man. In this book, we are faced with the limits of the ability of man to be good. It is Right and Good to forgive. God forgives; we should forgive. (Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us—it’s the Lord’s Prayer, after all.) Not only is there depravity at the heart of man, but man has no ability, literally no ability, to be this forgiving.
But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Who then can be saved?