By Kari Costanza | Photos by Jon Warren

… Rwanda was as ruined as any spot on earth after an implosion of violence killed 800,000 people in 100 days. How could the country ever overcome such hatred and horror?

It would take a miracle.

Wherever Andrew Birasa is, Callixte Karemangingo is nearby. They work side by side in the coffee fields in Nyamagabe district, southern Rwanda, talking as they weed around the berries ripening to a rosy red. The men relax together with their families, their wives and children sharing meals and guitar-accompanied songs. In church, Andrew preaches, Callixte reads Scripture, and their children dance with unabashed joy.

It is difficult to fathom how anything could come between these childhood friends. Yet not long ago, a deep hatred separated them. In April 1994, when Rwanda erupted into violence, neighbor turned on neighbor, family turned on family, and love turned to hate. The genocide turned these two friends into enemies.

This is a story about what came afterward. In war-ravaged Rwanda, where World Vision began relief and development work in 1994, hostility slowly yielded to faith and forgiveness, restoring communities and relationships.

“I like helping people. I would have become a doctor,” says Andrew, 50, sitting in his neatly kept house. Poverty had other plans for Andrew. Unable to afford college, he built himself a house near his parents in 1985. Two years later he married Madrine, now 50, and they started their family.

“During that time, I was living a great life,” he says. “I had many relatives around me and many friends and neighbors who were like a big family. Things were very good.”

Callixte, now 42, was part of the circle of friends. The two had always been fond of one another. “He was a very sharp kid,” Andrew says of Callixte. “He was very active in school. He was always number one in writing poems and singing.”

Callixte looked up to Andrew. “He was older than me, but he liked selling things that kids liked,” says Callixte. “He sold groundnuts and biscuits, so I always came to him to buy things. He was a very good person.”

Andrew says his village was a place of “peace and harmony,” where people came together for weddings and other ceremonies. Until April 1994. “Things changed all of a sudden, and people started killing each other,” Andrew says. “People had lost their minds.”

Neighbors turned on Andrew’s family. His wife, Madrine, was a Tutsi—a target for killing. Andrew tried to protect her and her relatives. “They did their best to hide,” he says. “Some even came to my house. They were discovered and killed.” Madrine survived but lost her father, mother, and five siblings.

Part of the mob that killed them was Callixte, whom Andrew had loved since childhood.

Though today they are friends, Andrew and Callixte endured a long road to healing.