Rwanda’s message: remember the past, build the future

Posted: April 15, 2011 in News
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Rwanda (MNN) ― Rwanda, known as the “Land of 1000 Hills,” is also the land of 1000 storylines today.

The national commemoration week for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi ended yesterday, April 13, at the Rebero Genocide memorial site.

Over the course of 100 days, more than 800,000 people were killed and many more were displaced, orphaned or scarred by the violence. Thousands of children suddenly found themselves the head of their households. That situation was aggravated by the rise of HIV/AIDS and led to the disintegration of both the family unit and society.

With such a scar on the nation’s history, the Rwandan Government assigned a week of commemoration to mourn the loss of loved ones and to support the survivors.

But stories of hope and resilience in Rwanda emerged, as well. Evangelist Sammy Tippit’s ministry has a long history in that country in support of the reconciliation efforts. He visited the country shortly after the genocide ended.

What he saw brought him to tears. “There was a great need for reconciliation, and it looked like an impossible task.” The obvious need was to move toward healing. However, the hurt had torn the fabric of the society. There was no place where it was not in evidence, even in places where peace was to prevail. “For instance, you would go into a church and there would be one woman sitting on a pew, and in the same pew would be another lady. One lady’s husband had killed the other lady’s husband.”

What better way to encourage peace than through the Gospel? “We went in with the message of salvation, of grace, of forgiveness, of reconciliation, and we saw a mighty work.”

Pastors who were at that first conference 17 years ago took the message of Christ, hope, peace and unity to heart. “The church has been out at the forefront of this. They started some small churches and started reaching out across the ethnic lines and the tribal lines. They began to bring people together inside their churches and tried to bring healing in every way: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”

With the natural message of reconciliation, the love of Christ was healing. The pastors who initially reached out have seen God move in amazing ways through those first small churches. “Now, some of those churches are huge. One pastor friend I know has a church of several thousand, and he’s got a number of other churches that he started–hundreds of them throughout the country. So there’s been a lot of progress made.”

While the cycle of violence has been broken for now, Tippit warned that “this was not the first time that something like this had happened in Rwanda. It has been a generational thing that has been passed down over the years. If one group of people allow that memory to stay there, this type of thing could be perpetuated.”

If changing the mindset is a generational problem, where do Christian leaders need to go? Tippit says they need to work where the young people congregate. “Christians have the opportunity to go in to the universities and minister to the university students and professors and help them to educate a new generation to something that will be very healthy.”

Rwanda’s genocide was horror. Commemoration reminds people of how far they have come and how far they have yet to go. “Those kinds of things that happened don’t just go away overnight, or even over a few years. It takes time and God’s healing process.”

Pray for continued progress toward healing, unity, peace, maturity and freedom. Pray that Rwandan Christians will step up and be a light, sharing the hope Christ offers no matter how the government or nation proceeds.


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