Target: Pieter Hugo, photographer
Goal: Commend photographer for documenting reconciliation process after Rwandan genocide
The reconciliation of perpetrators and victims of the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s has taken a concerted effort over many years. The process is still on going, aided by many NGOs and non-profit organizations. One photojournalist has begun documenting this important, and at times very painful, process to demonstrate to the world that forgiveness for such terrible atrocities is possible. This photographer is Pieter Hugo, who in conjunction with the Association of Modeste et Innocent has photographed hundreds of Hutus and Tutsis as they work toward reconciliation and forgiveness in their communities.
April 7th marked the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Somber commemorations were held throughout the country, as wounds continue to heal slowly. In 1994, the Hutu majority conducted mass killings of the minority Tutsi group and many politically moderate Hutus. It is estimated that up to one million Rwandans were killed between April and mid-July of that year. Twenty percent of the country’s population and seventy percent of the Tutsi population were lost. The world was shocked by the barbaric means of killing and widespread use of gender-targeted crimes, such as the use of rape as a weapon. Many survivors of rapes were infected with HIV.
Understandably, forgiveness of such crimes is difficult and slow in coming. However, many Rwandans are dedicated to the pursuit of reconciliation among people who, in many cases, still live in the same villages. Groups like AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent) aid in this effort by offering counseling for small groups of Hutus and Tutsis over many months, resulting in an official request for forgiveness by the offending party.
Photographer Pieter Hugo has been present at many of these formal forgiveness requests to take photographs, and to document what is often an emotional exchange. While forgiveness is possible to varying degrees among participants, many described it as an important step toward improving their communities. Describing the project, Hugo told the New York Times, “These people can’t go anywhere else — they have to make peace. Forgiveness is not born out of some airy-fairy sense of benevolence. It’s more out of a survival instinct.”
Commend the important work of this artist and photojournalist in documenting the reconciliation and forgiveness for unimaginable atrocities.
Dear Pieter Hugo,
Thank you for your work with AMI to document the reconciliation process that still continues among Hutus and Tutsis, twenty years after the violence has subsided. This kind of forgiveness is an important example to the international community.
I am writing today to commend your dedication and to urge you to keep up the good work.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: CIA WFB via wikimedia commons