Rwandan Survivor Visits Montreal to Spread Peace
Forgiveness. It was a predominant theme when Samputu appeared at the annual International Peace Day held at Mount Royal this past September. It’s easier said than done, he admits. In 1994, Rwanda, a small central-African country, suffered one of the most horrifying genocides in recent history. It is estimated that around 800,000 people died in those 90 days. Former friends were pitted against one another as Tutsis were mass killed by the Hutu militia. 46-year old singer-songwriter and Tutsi, Samputu, was one of the lucky few who survived the genocide, but not without some horrendous scars.
Following the genocide of his country, a time in which he lost both his mother, father, three of his brothers and sister at the hands of his next-door neighbor and childhood friend, Vincent, Jean-Paul went through his own hell. During nine long years, he found himself lost in hatred, alcoholism, and drug abuse, unable to forgive or forget the event and man that - it seemed - would haunt him for the rest of his life.
In 2003, the Tutsi finally found forgiveness within himself and after seeking the help he needed, Samputu spoke out about his new vision of life. “I openly told everyone that I had forgiven the man that killed my parents,” he said of his return to his country to stand before the tribunal court. Even after forgiving the man who killed his family and befriending him for a second time, Samputu was not done.
Currently, the singer travels the world performing his unique style of music - much of which was inspired by the neglected Pygmy people of Rwanda. “That’s what I do.” Samputu said about his message to the world. “My music changed forever after the Rwandan genocide […] I sing about peace, love, and reconciliation.” Samputu hopes to reach the youngest audiences: “Children are leaders of the world of tomorrow. In 20 years, they will rule the world. Try to teach the children. If you don’t teach them or give them a good education, they will think that this culture of war and revenge is a good thing to do.”
It is for that very reason that Samputu founded the Mizero Children of Rwanda. Mizero means “hope” in Kinyarwanda. The organization brings together children of Rwanda to train them in dance, singing, and speech. Samputu, along with other Mizero authorities, select a small group of approximately 12 children to travel the world performing as well as speaking out about the genocide, giving the underprivileged children a sense of closure as well as a sense of purpose and hope for their future.
Samputu – an Ambassador for Peace – is a model for anyone who wants to make a change in the world today. However, Samputu is not above looking for guidance himself: “How can I spread the message of peace though? Who is the first person to talk? If you want to change the world, first you have to be the change. You. Be the change you want to see in the world, as Gandhi said.”
Can we truly forgive and forget? If there is one person who could answer that question, it would be Jean-Paul Samputu, and he seems to think so.
For more information, visit http://www.samputu.com/ and http://www.mizerochildren.org/