Samputu practices forgiveness – even for his father’s killer

Jean Paul SamputuForgive your father’s murderer? Unlikely, right? Probably impossible? Unless, like Rwandan peace activist and renowned musician Jean Paul Samputu, you want to save your own life from self-destruction, misery, and pain.

A quick historical review: 19 years ago, over a 100-day period, nearly 1 million Rwandan Tutsis lost their lives at the hands of their fellow Rwandans, the Hutus.

Prior to the outbreak of the genocide on April 6, 1994, Mr. Samputu, a Tutsi and at the time a rising star on the East African music scene, spent six months in jail, along with thousands of other Tutsis who had been arrested at their homes.

The jails were packed, and the United Nations and international community demanded that the government release the prisoners. The Tutsis were released, but a plan was hatched to eliminate them. Portrayed in the award-winning film “Hotel Rwanda,” this swift and brutal genocide eventually stirred the conscience of the world. But at the time, no foreign government intervened to prevent the Hutus from carrying out the slaughter of their own Tutsi friends and neighbors.

After Samputu was released from jail, his father urged him to flee the country.

Refusing to leave himself, the elder Samputu stayed behind in his village, while Jean Paul escaped to neighboring Burundi and Uganda. In the nightmare of genocidal rage that followed in Rwanda, Samputu lost his father, mother, three brothers, and a sister.

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