“Love is the affirmation of life, the ultimate source of peace ...

Love testifies to the success of forgiveness..."

Jean Paul Samputu with his sons Willy and Francis Igor at a concert in Montreal, Canada ( Photo, David S. Hong Photo)

When Jean Paul looks back, he thinks that what he and Vincent did in public was crucial to their healing. Furthermore, people learned about a cure that they did not know about before. “We were basically dying, which means that seeds of revenge were being transmitted to younger generations. We had to break that circle of violence. We had to let people know that forgiveness can prevent any future genocide.” This kind of messages attracted a diverse international attention to Jean Paul’s story. In 2009, he organized the first international conference on forgiveness in Rwanda. He called it “Forgiveness: A step Towards Reconciliation.” And many researchers took interest in Jean Paul’s work. Among them was Brent Swanson, an American musicologist who wrote a doctoral dissertation about Jean Paul’s music, forgiveness, and reconciliation initiatives (3).


There was one challenge to Jean Paul’s forgiveness campaign though. He kept talking about forgiveness even during the genocide commemorations in Rwanda. This offended some genocide survivors. Jean Paul thinks he has been misunderstood. “Going to memorial events while still angry and bitter does not honour our lost ones. When we do not forgive we destroy ourselves. Because we become what we do not forgive. Forgiving is not a sign of forgetting. It helps us remember a painful past without getting affected negatively. That way we build a better future.”


To the question of knowing if forgiveness is now a permanent attitude in his own life, Jean Paul's answer is “Yes, But...” This is because he still struggles to forgive the leaders of the Christian Churches in Rwanda. He blames them for having failed to preach love. “Had they acted as true Christians, genocide would not have taken place. Genocide was possible because political and church leaders did allow it to happen. Even now, years after the genocide, they are not preaching forgiveness and love efficiently. They do not ask for forgiveness on behalf of their followers who participated in the genocide.”


Jean Paul insists that forgiveness is useful in all aspects of every day life. “One has to be ready to forgive or to ask for forgiveness.” This is what happened when family and friends gathered in Kigali in 2012 to celebrate Jean Paul’s fiftieth birthday and his successful career in music. He stood up and apologized to his wife for having let her down when he abandoned his family in Canada.


Jean Paul's forgiveness journey is ongoing, but it is a journey of less pain and more joy. It is becoming a journey of love. When Jean Paul released his 16th album last year, he called it “Only Love.” He had this to say: “Love is the affirmation of life, the ultimate source of peace and true hope for a better world. Love testifies to the success of forgiveness and reconciliation after violent conflicts. Only love will help the people of the world overcome conflicts and genocide.”




(1) Visit to know more about Jean Paul's music, and to know more about Jean Paul's forgiveness workshops.


(2)Jean Paul's discussion about God, religion and society reminds of the work and life of Eugen Drewermann. See for an example J. Harold Ellens’ Book Review of Matthias Beier, 2004, A Violent God-Image: An Introduction to the Work of Eugen Drewermann. New York and London: Continuum. Pp. 388,


(3) To read Dr Brent Swanson's dissertation, visit


Recommended citation: Rafiki Ubaldo, January 17, 2016, Jean Paul Samputu: A Man's Journey to Forgiveness,


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