Agnes is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Although a witness to devastating horrors, Agnes has embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ taught by the first missionaries in Rwanda, Brother and Sister Andrus, and is working to forgive those who killed her family. Agnes recently graduated from university and works as an accountant in a hotel in Kigali.
A note from Sister Cheri Andrus:
“Rwanda’s ongoing recovery from the 1994 genocide has been truly inspirational. Leading the way as a center of ecotourism, the country is now the world’s premier destination for tracking the endangered mountain gorilla.
“The Rwandan genocide spanned 100 days in 1994, commencing on April 5 and coming to a close mid July. Approximately one million people were killed and many seriously injured. Most killed were Tutsi’s, but nearly one third were moderate Hutus who didn’t support the genocide. The Tutsi villages were targeted and destroyed, churches and schools demolished, all Tutsi people within sight killed. The people doing most of the killing were the Hutus and Hutu militia. Besides the people to blame who were doing the killing, there were also those who didn’t intervene. The Rwandan genocide is widely recognized as an extreme failure of the international community to protect people at risk of mass scale atrocities.
- 99.9% witnessed violence
- 87.5% saw dead bodies or parts of bodies
- 79.6% experienced death in the family
- 69.5% witnessed someone being killed or injured
- 61.5% were threatened with death
“Fortunately, Rwanda is a safe place to live today. In a recent study on safest cities in Africa, Kigali, the capitol, scored very high.
“My husband and I have been serving a mission in Rwanda since March 2010. We are the first and only missionaries in this country. Our responsibilities include humanitarian projects, meeting with government officials, and branch support. We have had the opportunity to teach and baptize 30 people in the past year. Since there is currently no proselyting in Rwanda, we teach family and friends of members. It is heartwarming to see the joy the gospel brings into their lives. Many of them were orphaned during the genocide. We love these people and are grateful for the opportunity to serve here.”
I, Sister Agnes, want to share my story with others by answering the questions which were given to me in order to help me to write my story.
How did you learn about the Church?
It is a long story but it is very important to me to talk about it. It was in 2006 when I met for the first time my two cousins, and one of them was a church member. At that time I was preparing to continue my studies at the University of Kigali. My cousin Yvonne asked me to live with her and I came to live together with her. When I lived with her she started to teach me about the gospel. She showed me movies about the life Christ when he was on the earth. She talked about the Book of Mormon, the content of it and how it was written. She taught me how the Church was restored and she showed me the DVDs about Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
My cousin and I are the only two members of the Church in our family.
What did you like best about the Church when you were learning about it?
The first thing that attracted me was the teachings and the different testimonies of church members I have heard. The other thing is the behavior of some church members; they behave like children of the Lord. Their practice and talk are different than others. They try to put into practice what the gospel teaches them.
The other reason is the testimony of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon. I read it and I found that book is true because it explains the Bible and it contains the true teachings.
How has your life changed since joining the Church?
My life has changed completely since I joined the Church. For example, I sincerely feel the joy of the Holy Ghost who changed my life of sorrow and unhappiness into peace and joy. And I have started to smile and talk again. Because of His love, I found that all my sorrow my Savior took away and He has left me peace.
I started to feel that I could forgive the people who killed my family in Genocide. It was very difficult for me to forgive them. And after forgiving them, I gained the total peace of my heart. For me, I choose to follow my Savior and I will never choose another way for my life.
The gospel helped me to be strong in the face of life’s trials because the whole New Testament shows us how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born and grew and started to meet trials and challenges in his life. But he never sinned. This is the reason why I choose to follow his good example as my Savior.
How was your family affected by the genocide?
There is no way to explain that, but for me, it was very bad to see our neighbors killing my dad and mama with sisters and brothers. We were six kids and our parents at home where we were happy with our parents, but the genocide killed my parents and my two sisters and two brothers and my relatives (like my uncle on my father’s side and their children and the same on my mother’s side). I still live with my elder sister who has some problems because of genocide and a few relatives who also survived genocide. To lose my family, especially my parents, is a very bad thing in my life and it has caused some behaviors like being alone, to hate people, to be unhappy for some time with a broken heart.
But today because of the gospel and praying, I made changes in my life and I can be happy for a long time. I’m peaceful with a forgiving heart. I am able to forgive those killers of my family, even if is very difficult to ask forgiveness for them. For me, forgiveness is a gift I’ve received after understanding the gospel.
What is your favorite thing about going to church?
For me, my favorite thing is that the church is a nice family where you feel your brothers and your sisters as your own relatives. For me, because I lost my family in genocide, I feel in me that church members are my brothers and my sisters. The reason why I am happy when I’m with them is because of the love and kindness they’ve shown me since I joined the church.
This interview has been adapted from a talk Agnes gave to her branch in Kigali. Agnes, 28, just graduated from university and is working full time as an accountant for a hotel. She looks forward to getting a master’s degree. Agnes lives in a house with two roommates that is the equivalent of two large walk-in closets (about 200 square feet, no kitchen, no bathroom). Several of these houses in a row share a latrine. She doesn’t live with her sister now. Her sister is with another relative in a village. Before the genocide Agnes’ sister couldn’t hear very well, as one ear didn’t work at all and she couldn’t talk properly. Due to what she saw during the genocide her challenges have increased because she isn’t able to express in words what she saw.
At A Glance
Location: Kigali, Rwanda
Marital status: Single
Occupation: Full time accountant for Okapi Hotel
Interview by Sister Cheri Andrus. Photos used with permission.