- Charles Habonimana: Survivor
Charles Habonimana is studying architecture at college.

Twenty two year old Charles believes that a true Christian [read: spiritual being] can access a space in his heart where moral judgment is irrelevant. How to do it, well, that’s the challenge. Charles is proof that not even a strong faith and a Bible make forgiveness easy when we are faced with life’s cruelest, horrific realities.

No one knows better about the challenge to forgive than Rwandese children. In 1994, thousands of men and women killed, or stood by and watched the swift slaughtering of families, neighbors, and friends. In the midst of this state-sanctioned, barbaric brother-on-brother bloodshed were millions of children, watching from waist level. What they witnessed most of us can’t imagine, and perhaps the details are less important than the fact that they were just history repeating itself.

What is true enough is that these same children who survived the insanity then lived to remember it, and were tasked to reconcile with its absurdity and inhumanity. Otherwise, how would these orphans ever live a happy life? Like so many Rwandese have chosen to do, Charles decided to lay his demons to rest. Reconciliation, not retribution. Not unusual, his testimony revealed impossible horror. At 10, Charles had been forced to watch his father being brutally murdered. By the 100 days’ end, of an extended family of 300, only 50 survived. Nevertheless, Charles met with his father’s genocidaires. Forgiveness wasn’t easy, he says, but it was necessary. Today, he is grateful that at least one of his 8 siblings survived, and he considers his father’s killers friends.

This photograph was taken at Charles' home in Kiyovu, Kigali.
Before Charles moved to his current home, he lived at
Gisimba Memorial Center, an orphanage on the outskirts of Kigali in Nyamirambo. To see pictures of children currently living at Gisimba Memorial Centre, visit http://www.krestakingphotography.com/portfolio49388.html
Kigali, Rwanda. Africa.
August 13, 2006.