The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, MA – Over a 100-day period beginning on April 6, 1994, nearly 1 million Rwandan Tutsis lost their lives at the hands of their fellow Rwandans, the Hutus. Prior to the outbreak of that genocide, Jean Paul 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.
When he was released from jail, his father urged him to flee the country. While Jean Paul escaped to neighboring Burundi and Uganda, the elder Samputu stayed behind in his village. In the nightmare of genocidal rage that followed, Jean Paul lost his father, mother, three brothers, and a sister.
Struggling with grief, anger, and desperation, Samputu slid into drinking and drugs, causing his career, his health, and his private life to spiral downward.
In 2003, Samputu found himself on Prayer Mountain, a real place in Uganda. There, he says, God showed him that he needed to forgive. “That’s when I said yes to God. I can forgive,” Samputu recalls. “I got a great peace in my heart.” He also vowed that he would take his message of forgiveness all over the world.
Returning to his native village, Samputu found and forgave the former neighbor who had killed his father. Despite the irrationality of it all, the two men worked together over the next few years to bring their message of forgiveness to all of Rwanda.
“Forgiveness is for you, not the offender. Forgiveness is the only thing that can stop the cycle of violence, the culture of revenge,” Samputu says. “If we don’t want another genocide, our children must learn this message.”
Samputu also returned to his music and his career took off. He won the Kora Award (the African Grammy) for Most Promising African Male Artist. Three years later, in 2006, he won First Place for World Music in the International Songwriting Competition. And in 2007, he was recognized as an “ambassador of peace” by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace.
Today, Samputu, who sings in six languages, has established himself as one of the most prominent African artists on the world stage. He is an international ambassador for peace, speaking at the UN and at universities throughout Japan, Canada, the US, and Germany. His nonprofit group, The Mizero Foundation, focuses on teaching gender equality and the empowerment of women.
He also formed a music and dance group called Mizero Children of Rwanda. These 15 children, all orphaned by the genocide, traveled with him throughout Africa, Canada, and the United States, singing, dancing, and delivering a message of forgiveness.
Read the full story: “Jean Paul Samputu practices forgiveness even for his father’s killer.”