"This is why God left me alive": Harpenden missionary talks about life after the Rwandan genocide
PUBLISHED: 12:45 07 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:45 07 August 2017
A genocide survivor and missionary has spoken about forgiveness, her faith, and going back to Rwanda.
Antoinette Mushimiyimana has recently published her first book, This is my story, an account of the genocide and her life afterwards.
Speaking at her home at the Highfield Oval in Harpenden, Antoinette said: “It was helpful for me to keep the memory alive.
“It was not easy, but I was motivated to put what I experienced down on paper. Going over the time always works.”
Antoinette was born in Rwanda to a Tutsi family, with three younger brothers.
In the book, she details how on the morning after the genocide began in 1994, her father sent her and her brothers to hide from the Hutu.
The Hutu began slaughtering the Tutsi following years of animosity between the two ethnicities, which spiralled out of control following the death of the country’s president.
Antoinette hid in a latrine pit for three weeks, surviving on rain water, hiding from militiamen joking about killing and raping.
When she left the pit, she saw a child suckling milk from its dead mother.
“This image has stayed with me to this day and I still wonder if I could have done something.
“One afternoon, when I returning to a friend’s house, I was noticed by one of the Interahamwe [Hutu militia].
“I was added to a long line of Tutsi, who were waiting to be executed with machetes.
“The queue got shorter and shorter. By the time it was my turn, I wasn’t even thinking. I was just waiting to die.”
Her saving grace was the news the central bank had been broken into. The Interahamwe fled to find their fortune.
She later found out her mother and brother and a hundred of her extended family were killed.
Her other brother was caught in a grenade blast, and the book covers Antoinette’s father’s desperate attempts to save him.
After the genocide, Antoinette found God, and began working with the evangelical charity Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
“I have been working for YWAM for the last 12 years as a missionary.
“It involves teaching and sharing with people, and talking about forgiveness.”
In 2011, she was accepted onto a reconciliation and justice course at Highfield Oval in Harpenden, which is owned by YWAM.
The Oval, which used to be a children’s home, now provides training for missions to various parts of the world.
YWAM have worked in 156 countries, including Rwanda, Jordan, Albania, and Turkey.
They are currently helping with the migrant crisis in Greece.
Antoinette was one of those who received training, and in 2014, she decided to return to Rwanda as a missionary.
There she met her father and visited one of her family’s killers in prison.
She has now been able to forgive those who killed her family, which she says is a choice she made.
“Forgiveness is a choice, so I made that choice when I learned about forgiveness.
“I have been working to become the best person God wants me to be.”
She returned to Harpenden later that year, and has continued as a missionary.
She has since travelled to China and Uganda, teaching trainees and helping South Sudanese refugees.
“I love what I do and I feel convinced that is why God left me alive. To inspire other people.
“There will always be someone who is not doing what they could do.
“I feel it’s one of the joys of what I do to encourage people to take the step forward into forgiveness.
“I go where God sends me, and where the doors are open.”
Antoinette’s book is available by post for £4 from The Methodist Church, High Street, Harpenden, Herts AL4 2RU.
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