Friday, May 16, 2008


In 1994, Mukantabana's husband and five of her children were hacked and clubbed to death by marauding Hutu militias. Among her family's killers was Jean-Bosco Bizimana, Mukanyndwi's husband.

"In my heart, the dead are dead, and they cannot come back again," Mukantabana said of those she lost. "So I have to get on with the others and forget what has happened."

Forgetting and forgiving everything she lost, everything she witnessed.

"Women and girls were raped, and I saw it all," she told CNN. "The men and boys were beaten and then slaughtered. They told others to dig a hole, get in, then they piled earth on top of them, while they were still alive."

Yet today, Mukantabana shares her future and her family meals with Bizimana, the killer she knew, and his wife, her friend Mukanyndwi.

Bizimana did spend seven years in jail. He then went before a tribal gathering, part of a return to traditional ways by the new government in 2002 with Rwanda's justice system unable to cope and process hundreds of thousands of imprisoned perpetrators.

The government decided that the master planners and worst perpetrators would face formal justice. But lower-level killers were allowed to publicly confess and apologize to the families of their victims at gacaca courts, where elders would hear grievances and decide on the punishments.

When I read this story on CNN, for some reason I recalled a Talmudic statement that the death penalty was abolished because the number of murderers increased greatly. I remember how when I first encountered that in the Talmud, how incredulous I was that such a situation could happen. Could it be possible that there is such a proliferation of murder that the courts could not keep up with it? Apparently it is possible.

The other thing I thought of when I read the story about the Rwandan woman is the idea in Judaism that if everyone is impure, then everyone is pure. This also seems to apply to the genocide in Rwanda.


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