By Kari Constanza; Edited by Katie Hackett
“I was living a great life,” says Andrew, 50. “I had many relatives around me and many friends and neighbours who were like a big family.”
The peace in Andrew’s village dissipated in April 1994 as neighbours turned on neighbours at the beginning of the Rwandan genocide. As a Tutsi, Andrew’s wife Madrine became a target. She survived the genocide but lost her father, mother and five siblings.
“People had lost their minds,” Andrew says. And among the mob that killed Madrine’s family was Andrew's good friend, Callixte.
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The men had grown up together and even with an eight-year age gap, their admiration for each other had been mutual. That friendship turned to animosity in the aftermath of the genocide. Callixte went to prison after Andrew implicated him in the killings.
“I hated him,” says Andrew. “My wife didn’t have anyone left in her family.”
World Vision began working in their village soon after the genocide ended, providing immediate aid and trauma support.
“They rehabilitated houses that had been destroyed,” says Andrew. “They provided shelter to survivors whose houses had been completely destroyed. They provided clothes. They provided food for people who hadn’t been able to harvest for three months.”
When World Vision sponsorship began in the community a few years later, both men's wives became volunteers. Even so, the women kept their distance from each other.
“The hatred between our husbands kept us apart,” explains Marcella, Callixte's wife. But in time, working on projects, focusing on children and training together melted both of their hearts.
Callixte also began to heal during his years in prison.
“He went through reconciliation workshops,” Marcella says. “In the end he felt, ‘what happened, happened. I need to live a new life.’”
When Callixte was released in 2007, he returned to the village. During a church service where both families were in attendance, the pastor preached about reconciliation and forgiveness. The message hit home for all of them, and led to their reconciliation.
“Our children saw us change,” says Madrine. Today, their sons Jean Bosco and Manuel, both 19, are like brothers.
Callixte and Andrew work together farming coffee in a project started by World Vision. Wherever Andrew is, Callixte is nearby: in the coffee fields, weeding and talking, walking to buy cows, relaxing with their families, or at church, where Andrew preaches and Callixte reads scripture.
The two men go to prisons, visiting genocide perpetrators who are still incarcerated and talking with them about reconciliation.