Freedom to forgive

Freedom to forgive

Then I knew that it was the same man who told me all those years ago, ‘fear not, no one is going to kill you’.

Uganda

For 24 years, Senior Presidential Advisor Cris Rwakasiisi spent his time behind the bars of a prison cell in a Ugandan penitentiary wondering what his fate was to become. 

Serving as Cabinet minister to former President Apollo Milton Obote, Cris was falsely accused of kidnapping with the intent to murder and was sentenced to death in 1985 after the fall of Obote’s government. Bitter and angry over the injustice of these false accusations and severe sentencing, it was in prison where Cris met Jesus; or rather, as Cris would say, ‘Jesus met me’.

Cris felt assured by God early on in his sentence that nobody was going to kill him, however he continued to struggle to come to terms with everything and very little seemed to change in regard to his circumstance.

But everything started to change for Cris when a lady named Maria provided him with a pamphlet about Alpha and asked him if he would run the course in prison. A bit unsure at the beginning, Cris’ own pursuit of God as well as his spiritual drive would eventually lead him to run his first of what would be many very successful Alphas for his fellow inmates.

‘What made it much more attractive is that before every class she would provide me with donuts and tea for all the prisoners… One hundred would come take tea and by the end of the day there would maybe only be 60… but the class continued building up and building up.’

On 21 January 2009, Cris was called into the warden’s office and given a letter ordering his release effective immediately. By the time Cris left prison in 2009, more than 1,000 inmates had graduated from Alpha.

Six months later President Yoweri Museveni called Cris in to his office and explained to him that over 20 years earlier, when his death warrant had been brought before him to sign, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He said he got on his knees and prayed to God and God told him in an audible voice, ‘do not sign it’.

Seeing the transformation that Alpha brought to the prisoners around him during his years in prison, Cris says:

‘I would encourage every prison in this country to commit [to running Alpha]. It is my appeal to the churches, my appeal to different organizations, even to big businessmen [to support Alpha], because the prison can bring reformation, but transformation comes from within and you can only be transformed by Jesus. And when these people are transformed they will never be a bother again. So I would appeal to them to support this course.’ 

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