Interview with Allison Alley, President Elect, Compassion Canada

April 7th has been set aside by the United Nations as the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Rwandan Genocide.  To commemorate this important day, please join us, and Compassion Canada, in recognizing the incredible reconciliation that has taken place in this nation, through the grace of Jesus and the power of forgiveness.

It’s been 25 years since the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, and though time has passed, the people of Rwanda will never be the same. The genocide was started in April of 1994 by Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali. For 100 days, Hutu militias took up arms against the Tutsis. More than 800,000 people were slaughtered during those 100 days. The people of Rwanda will always carry with them the deep loss and scars the genocide left behind.

But, love has since been on the move.

To continue reading this incredible story of forgiveness, please click here.

In addition to sharing about these three powerful stories of Rwandan youth who are moving forward in forgiveness after the terrible repercussions of the genocide, we were given the opportunity to share in an interview between Mikayla Stroeder of Graf-Martin Communications, and Allison Alley, President Elect of Compassion Canada.

Interview between Mikayla and Allison

Questions by Mikayla, responses by Allison:

  1. Wow – it’s hard to believe that 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Can you tell us what’s happening on April 7 and the significance of the day?

April 7th, 1994 was the first day of the genocide, which lasted 100 days and saw the slaughter of approximately 800,000 people. The United Nations has set aside April 7th as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Of course, this year is particularly significant as we mark 25 years since the genocide. Twenty-five years means that the vast majority of youth and young adults today don’t remember the genocide—most weren’t even born. I think this makes this date even more important—it encourages the next generation to remember and reflect, in order to prevent such brutal violence in the future and learn from the peace and reconciliation efforts that have happened in Rwanda since.

 

  1. Compassion Canada has played an active role in the reconciliation that has taken place, on the ground, in Rwanda. Can you tell us what that’s looked like?

Compassion has been working in Rwanda since 1980. In all of the countries where we work, Compassion’s programs are led by the local church. This means that our local church partners in Rwanda were and are able to lead reconciliation efforts with a deep knowledge of the context in their communities. And of course, they are able to share the hope and peace that Jesus offers us all. Currently, we have just under 400 local church partners in Rwanda.

In the aftermath of the genocide, it became clear that trauma counselling and initiatives that promote healing and reconciliation would become extremely important in our work with children living in poverty in Rwanda. Our goal is to see children flourish in every aspect of life—mind, body, spirit and relationships—and healing from the effects of the genocide is a key part of that for many children in Rwanda. Sponsored children that were affected by the genocide and its aftermath did and continue to participate in programs such as art therapy and Christian counselling—and it’s led to incredible stories of healing, forgiveness and reconciliation.

 

  1. Can you share some stories of children who you’ve seen make courageous, counter-cultural decisions on how they’ve chosen to react to the aftermath of the genocide?

Absolutely. We’re sharing three of those stories on our blog this week, of three young adults—Methode, Christine and Christian—and I’d encourage everyone to read them in full when you get a chance.

I’ll share a bit of Christine’s story. Her memories of the genocide include losing her father, then fleeing with her mother and witnessing her mother be shot in the head, before being whisked away by her aunt, who then raised her with her grandparents. It’s something you can’t imagine anyone having to go through—let alone a four-year-old child.

You can imagine the bitterness and even hatred that would take root in the heart of a young person who’d experienced what Christine did. But as a sponsored child, she was connected with the local church that ran the Compassion program in her community and eventually came to know Christ and the lasting hope that He offers. As a teenager, she was able to make the decision to forgive those who had murdered her parents.

Today, she works as a Child Protection Officer with Save the Children and aims to one day be the Minister of Human Rights in Rwanda. This is a young woman who should’ve had a future of bitterness and resentment, who instead has deep hope and incredible capacity to make a positive difference in her community and country moving forward.

 

  1. These stories teach us a lot. It shows us that while still painful, what’s happening in Rwanda is not a hopeless situation. What else can we, here, in Canada learn from Methode, Christine and Christian?

I personally am inspired by the radical posture of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation displayed in these individuals’ lives. Experiencing pain and trauma is horrible, and I would never want to diminish or dismiss the horror of it by saying that good can come out of it. But we can see that in the event of such horrible things in life—whether personal or something experienced more collectively—there is an opportunity, by God’s grace, to practice Christ-likeness through enemy love, radical reconciliation and counter-cultural forgiveness.

These are three individuals who are now committed to helping others in their everyday lives. From this place of healing, they want others to experience healing. And though we might live in a totally different country and context, I think we can each identify situations in our own lives where we’ve experienced hope and healing, and can then share that hope and healing with others.

 

  1. What are some of the ways that Canadians can participate in providing specific support for the continued restoration of genocide survivors?

There are lasting effects of the genocide—most notably, an orphan crisis created by the genocide itself, and also the ensuing HIV/AIDS crisis and deepened poverty that followed it. Rwanda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with their median age being 19.2 years. There are so many young people still grappling with pain and trauma in the aftermath of a genocide that they weren’t even alive for.

That’s why Compassion continues to invest in trauma counselling for Rwandan youth in our programs. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the genocide, we want Canadians to know that they can continue to provide support by donating to our trauma counselling fund, helping youth embrace a future filled with peace, hope and healing. Our prayer is that these young people will then be the peacemakers who rise up and lead their country into continued restoration and reconciliation.


Thank you so much, Allison and Mikayla, for allowing us to share in a small way this powerful project with Compassion Canada.  We learned a lot, and hope to have helped spread the word about the importance of April 7th.  The courage of these Rwandans in choosing forgiveness over hate is inspiring to everyone, regardless of circumstances. 

And thank you to Compassion Canada, for the amazing work you are doing to share the love and hope of Jesus with people who have suffered unimaginable tragedy.  May God continue to work through you!

 

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