'Anger is your enemy': On forgiveness after the Rwandan genocide

Rwandan man Jean Paul Samputu's family was murdered in the Rwandan genocide, and he spoke to Melbourne high school students about how he chose to forgive the man who killed them.

Year 12 students from Sirius College in Melbourne's north recently sat down to hear Rwandan Jean Paul Samputu share the story of his family in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. 

It's estimated more than 800,000 Tutsi's were killed in the bloody 90-day period. Among those killed were Jean Paul's parents and siblings - and when he learned the man responsible was a childhood friend named Vincent - he said he headed down a nine-year path of self-destruction.

"I was dead when I learnt Vincent killed my father - I was walking but like a dead person walking - I started drink every day and drugs," Mr Samputu said.

In a presentation he's now delivered across the globe, Jean Paul Samputu explains the realisation which changed his life. 

"Your real enemy is your anger, your resentment, your desire of revenge -  that's your enemy - your enemy is not the other one who hurt you - no!" he said. 

With this belief, Jean Paul said he forgave Vincent.

"We embrace each other and I was very happy and I said I made it  I am free again - Now I'm happy I'm healed I'm ready to forgive and now I can sing about joy," Mr Samputu said.   

Jean Paul Samputu
Jean Paul Samputu

African–Australian community leader Dr Berhan Ahmed helped arrange Jean Paul' Samputus Australian visit in an attempt to address what he describes as a most confronting question.

"The TV screens at home showing problems with all that - how do we get young generations to get rid of resentment -  hate?"

Many Sirius College students still have family in the world's most troubled regions, and say they took a great deal from the remarkable story of forgiveness.

"We do have enormous inclination to despise whoever hates us and does bad things to us and I think if you can overcome that boundary that is incredible," said Year 12 student Abrar Abdulridha who has relatives in Iraq.

Saza Rwandzy, also in Year 12, is of Kurdish heritage – and says Jean Paul Samputu managed to resonate with the students like few others.

"I truly think he gave like a remedy, like an ointment like a healing tool to us - the smiles I saw on the girl's faces  - they really showed involvement and he empowered the room," she said.