Church marks 20 years since genocide in Rwanda
03 July 2014
- Photo of Bishop Samuel speaking to the Methodist Conference
Nearly one million Rwandans were slaughtered during 100 days of
genocidal killing twenty years ago. Today, representatives of the
Methodist Conference meeting in Birmingham prayed for lasting peace
during a commemorative service led by the President of the
Methodist Conference, the Revd Ken Howcroft.
Speaking ahead of the commemoration, Bishop Samuel, leader of the
Methodist Church in Rwanda, said that a lot had happened during the
past 20 years to build peace in Rwanda. "From the time when our
people were killed in the genocide, we have come to a situation
today where our churches and communities are made of those who once
were involved in the killings and those who were their victims. The
survivors of the genocide and the perpetrators released from
prisons attend the same churches and live side by side in the
communities. Although this poses big challenges in responding to
their needs, we know that our work and mission is to help and
support them to live together as God's children."
Bishop Samuel also said that the Church in Rwanda is gradually
regaining its original purpose in the community. "What happened 20
years ago gives us the confidence to say that there is a light of
hope for a brighter future in our country. We have seen the power
of forgiveness and reconciliation, bringing former bitter enemies
together, in a life transformed by the love of Jesus Christ."
The Revd John Howard, Chair of the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury
District, was in Rwanda in April for the country's national
commemoration of the genocide. The Methodist Wolverhampton and
Shrewsbury District has been in partnership with Rwanda for the
past nine years, working with the Peacebuilding, Healing and
Reconciliation Programme (PHARP) in order to foster peace, healing
and reconciliation in conflict prevention, transformation and
The Revd Dr Paul Nzacahayo, circuit minister in the Vale of Stour
Circuit, Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District, lived in Rwanda
before the genocide. In 1993, he went to the University of
Edinburgh to study for a one-year Masters Degree in Theology. In
April 1994, his then pregnant wife and two children joined him for
a short visit just four days before the killing began. "The tragedy
has impacted me in many ways," Paul said ahead of the
commemoration. "Saying that it was a miracle that my wife and
children arrived in the UK only four days prior to the genocide is
an understatement. Even now, twenty years after the events, when I
think about what could have happened to them, my stomach clinches
and I am almost paralysed by the thoughts of it. Every day I wake
up praying that that thought will not come in my mind."
"Since those early days of the genocide, I have been looked after
by the Nicolson Square Methodist Church which is at the heart of
Edinburgh, and later on by many friends in the Methodist Church in
different parts of the UK where I have ministered. My family and I
are very grateful for such love and care.
"I also lost hope that Rwanda would be able to carry on as a
country after the genocide. I couldn't see how a community that
tore itself apart could be rebuilt and re-united. Twenty years on I
must pay tribute to the Rwandans who, with the support and help of
others, have succeeded in doing a fantastic job of restoring peace
and normality to what seemed to me like a lost cause."
One of the peacebuilding initiatives that has emerged in Bishop
Samuel's church is a cow-sharing project called Inshuti Nyanshuti.
The church gives a cow (a valued animal in Rwandan culture) to a
genocide survivor who then passes the cow on to his or her
protector during the genocide, or to a perpetrator who has pleaded
guilty, accepted responsibility and asked for pardon.
"It's a small project at the moment that has been going for two
years," said Bishop Samuel. "We have 24 people - 12 families. But
we will continue to expand. When we offer the cows, there's a big
ceremony. People in the village come to witness it and hear
testimonies from both parties: survivors of the genocide, their
protectors during the genocide, or perpetrators who've been
released from prison."