Rwanda's Evangelical Churches Bring Revival to the Nation
The healing ministry in this land
Published 26 April 2004 | Joanna S.Wong
Many believers left Church since the breakout of the genocide in Rwanda a decade ago, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed within 100 days, which is one of the most tragic incident in the modern history.
"I no longer go to Mass because of what I saw and heard. I no longer see the church as a holy place because the killers yelled, even God has forsaken us." Karasira Venuste, one of tens of thousands of Rwandans who have left Rwanda's Catholic Church since the 1994 genocide, said.
"The only thing that will get me inside a church now is a funeral," said Venuste, the right sleeve of his shirt dangling empty, a testament to the work of a machete blade.
However, God never forgets this land. During these 10 years, Rwanda's Pentecostal, evangelical and charismatic churches has been arised and brought revivals to the nation.
"There's a great turning back to God in Rwanda," said Antoine Rutasiyire, 46, one of the country's leading evangelists. "The genocide created a great awareness about God."
In the capital Kigali alone, the 4-year-old Zion Temple Pentecostal Church numbers has increased in number to 7,000 members. This increasing strength has also impact the upper tiers of Rwanda's government.
During Rwanda's presidential campaign in August, evangelical leaders took a leading role in staging rallies for President Paul Kagame and his ruling Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front.
Rutasiyire and other evangelical leaders now hold twice-a-month prayer breakfasts for Rwanda's leaders and lead a weekly Bible study at the home of Rwanda's foreign minister, Charles Murigande, a former statistics professor at Howard University in Washington.
Evangelical leaders recently forced the government to tone down a billboard condom advertisement whose wording they believed promoted promiscuity, Rutasiyire said. In a country where as many as 1.1 million people are thought to be infected with HIV/AIDS, the successful lobbying effort was of no small consequence.
Rwanda roughly has 4.8 million, or 62 percent, of the country's pre-genocide population of 7.8 million identified with the faith, making Rwanda the most Catholic country in Africa.
In this 10th anniversary of the genocide of Rwanda, the World Council of Churches visited this country. According to WCC, "Healing is essential dimension of the church's ministry. Through its programmatic activities, through its relationships and partnerships, has always taken healing very seriously. I believe that the Council can and must express, in tangible ways, its healing ministry in Rwanda. This could be done within the framework of the Focus on Africa as well as through other programmes and actions of the WCC."
Reconciliation is based on forgiveness and forgiveness must be based on confession. Therefore, it is confession that generates healing and forgiveness.
WCC urges the churches to promote the kind of juridical-legal system where preventive, punitive and restorative justice are taken together for the transformation of the whole society.