Healing and Forgiveness in Rwanda

A friend of mine who works in Kenya recently visited Rwanda and spent some time learning more about the Rwandan genocide as he talked with and listened to stories from genocide survivors, as well as visiting a couple of genocide memorials. Since, he has written two articles for the Southern Baptist news website, Baptist Press, which highlight his experience and retell some of the stories he heard.

But these aren’t just stories about genocide. These are stories about the healing that is taking place in Rwanda as Tutsi Christians are forgiving Hutu perpetrators.

"Another lady watched her neighbors murder her husband and all eight of her children. She was attacked with a machete on her leg and hip but managed to escape and flee to Kigali. Today she has forgiven her former neighbors and, remarkably, offers them and their children a place to stay when they need it."

I know it is hard to read and hear about the things that took place here in Rwanda in 1994, but I encourage you to read these articles written first-hand by someone who visited Rwanda and gathered this information within the past 2-3 months. It is important for you to see what is taking place in Rwanda right now. Although the stories are often graphic and hard to stomach, it’s reality… and by us learning about the reality of such great evil we begin to see and learn more about God’s unconditional and unending love and grace for every human being - regardless of what they’ve done.

(Click the links below to read each article)


FIRST PERSON: Amazed By Rwanda’s Stories of Healing and Forgiveness

APRIL 6: My Birthday and the Rwandan Genocide

April 6, 1994 - It was my seventh birthday. I’m sure I blew out seven candles, ate too much birthday cake, got some new Hot Wheels, and shared quality time with my family. All the while everyone was oblivious, and many still are.

April 6, 1994 - An airplane carrying then Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana, was shot down near the Rwandan capital city, Kigali, and he was killed along with 10 others - including then Burundian President, Cyprian Ntayamira. Habyarimana (a Hutu) seized control of Rwanda from President Gregoire Kayibanda (also a Hutu) in 1973 after leading a coup and killing many of the leaders from the former regime.

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Stephen Kinzer, author of A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It, has written an article for the Boston Globe that we should pay attention to. While I am in Rwanda and have limited access to televised news (because we don’t pay for cable), I briefly saw part of the news on CNN last week and heard President Barack Obama saying that American military action in Libya was taken to prevent a slaughter of civilians that would have stained the world’s conscience and “been a betrayal of who we are.”

(Barack Obama and Moammar Khadafy)

I immediately thought of Rwanda when I heard "…to prevent a slaughter of civilians," but I didn’t know enough about the situation to form any objective opinions. I also don’t know if or to what extent Rwanda has been thrown around as an example for, or against, intervention in Libya by the “talking heads” of various American news stations, but that seems to be the case in light of Kinzer’s article. It is an important article to help us to understand history the way it really happened and also why it happened. Few people understand the decades of events that led up to the Rwandan genocide, or the transformation in Rwanda that has taken place since. I recommend the aforementioned book by Kinzer, A Thousand Hills, as it is one of the most informative books on the subject.

Follow the link below to read more.

ONE OF THE most effective arguments in favor of American intervention in Libya is that it is necessary to prevent “another Rwanda.’’ But the situation in Libya has nothing in common with what happened in Rwanda. Repeat: nothing in common.”

- Stephen Kinzer, Libya is not ‘another Rwanda’

As We Forgive: The Story Of Rwanda’s Redemption

As We Forgive_Movie Poster

I was in San Diego, CA for the annual Zondervan National Pastor’s Convention in February of 2009, and I had the opportunity to see one of the first showings of, As We Forgive, a film that would fan the flames of my heart for Rwanda.  Many of you may have heard of or seen the movie before, but if you haven’t I strongly encourage you to buy it or borrow it from someone you know who might have a copy.  As We Forgive provides the most vivid picture of reconciliation taking place throughout Rwanda.  It also features Bishop John Rucyahana - co-founder of Bridge2Rwanda, President of Rwanda’s National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, and Chair of Prison Fellowship Rwanda.

It is my conviction that you will be inspired, moved to tears, and challenged to love and forgive others with the love of Christ.

Could you forgive a person who murdered your family? This is the question faced by the subjects of As We Forgive, a documentary about Rosaria and Chantal—two Rwandan women coming face-to-face with the men who slaughtered their families during the 1994 genocide. The subjects of As We Forgive speak for a nation still wracked by the grief of a genocide that killed one in eight Rwandans in 1994. Overwhelmed by an enormous backlog of court cases, the government has returned over 50,000 genocide perpetrators back to the very communities they helped to destroy. Without the hope of full justice, Rwanda has turned to a new solution: Reconciliation.

Source: www.asweforgivemovie.comTwitter Facebook YouTube

Kinyarwanda movie posterUPDATE (2/4/11):  Congratulations to everyone involved in the making of Kinyarwanda, a film that took home the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  I got in touch with someone at their Twitter account as a result of this blog post, and it seems that there’s a good chance (depending on the date) I’ll be able to see Kinyarwanda with many members of the cast and crew when it first premieres in Rwanda!


"Kinyarwanda is a feature length film spawned from the very real stories of Rwandans who survived the 1994 Genocide, many of whom lost family and friends.  These stories and the research of Executive Producer Ishmael Ntihabose resulted in this very unique way of telling a part of Rwandan history yet unknown to most of the world.   Ishmael’s research focused on the how many Hutu and Tutsi Muslims in Rwanda worked with Christian Hutus and Tutsis to protect and save lives.   While many previous films focused on the politics and death during the genocide, Kinyarwanda is a movie about life, faith, forgiveness, and reconciliation."

     - Alrick Brown, Director

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Creating tomorrow’s leaders… to transform a nation

Dale DawsonDale Dawson is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bridge2Rwanda, a global non-profit enterprise that fosters economic development, entrepreneurship, education and leadership in Rwanda.  In 2003, Dawson left his career at a Little Rock, Arkansas-based investment banking firm to begin a mission to help re-build Rwanda.  The other co-founder of Bridge2Rwanda is Bishop John Rucyahan, an Anglican Bishop from Rwanda who is internationally renowned as an evangelist, spiritual leader and social entrepreneur.  Today Dale passionately live his Divine calling: “To build a bridge between here and Rwanda and transform lives at both ends.”

Bishop John Rucyahana

Bishop John Rucyahana is one of Rwanda’s most effective leaders – building schools, hospitals, businesses, community centers and churches. Today, he serves as President of Rwanda’s National Unity and Reconciliation Commission and Chair of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Hope Rwanda and Muhabura University. He also serves on President Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council and is the author of The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones.  From 1997-2010, Bishop John served as Bishop of the Shyira Diocese of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. He founded and helped to build Sonrise School, Shyira Hospital, Ishema Hotel, Urwego Opportunity Bank, Anglican Mission in America and many other Kingdom ventures. In 2009, he was awarded the Wilberforce Award by Prison Fellowship for his work in Rwanda’s prisons. Bishop John earned his Masters in Divinity from Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA

Transforming The Church In Rwanda

Rwandan Church

“I think God is blessing Rwanda and God is going to use Rwanda to change the world!” – Rick Warren

I invite you to be a part of God’s work in a very special part of the world.  Before 1994, Rwanda was held up as a model of evangelization in Africa.  Revival spread throughout Rwanda as church growth exploded, and nowhere else on the continent was Christianity received so well.  Yet, a week after Easter in April of 1994 the most Christianized country in Africa became the site of its worst genocide when approximately 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed in the course of 100 days.  Christians were killing Christians, and it has been said that the church in Rwanda allowed the blood of tribalism to run much deeper than the waters of baptism.

Fast-forward 10-15 years.  Forgiveness and reconciliation are taking place all across Rwanda as people no longer identify themselves as “Hutu” or “Tutsi.”  Victims of the genocide and those who committed it are coming together in communities as one body of Christ, and revival is once again taking place in Rwanda.  The blood of Jesus is stronger than the blood of genocide.

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