Monday, August 08, 2011

A Lesson On Forgiveness From Rwanda

Photo Courtesy of Blessed Madugba
One of the greatest human tragedies of recent memory was the genocide that occurred in Rwanda. During a hundred day period in the spring and summer of 1994, an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed during a conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. The number killed was a staggering 20% of the population of the country.

Amazingly, the tribal differences that led to the genocide of 1994 did not always exist. At one time, the members of these two tribes were actually considered the same people with a shared language, culture and values. During the Belgian colonialist period of the mid-1800's, the people of Rwanda were divided into two different tribes based on their personal wealth. Those with more became Tutsi and those with less became Hutu. This separation of one people into two separate peoples treated unequally led to a struggle for power over the years that eventually led to the mass killings that took place in the 1990's.

A friend of mine, Blessed Madugba, recently spent some time in Rwanda and met with survivors of the genocide with the hope of bringing some healing to this troubled country. Blessed is Nigerian and his own tribe, the Ibo, experienced a similar atrocity at the hands of Nigerian government in the late 1960's when millions were killed. Possessing an empathy that few of us possess, Blessed shares:
"The absolute highlight of my trip is the meeting I had with the local pastors and Christian leaders. There’s a serious lack of unity among the Christian leaders and pastors. This contributed greatly to instigate some Hutu pastors & priests in joining the mass killings of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, including Tutsi members of their own churches.

Even after the genocide there’s still strong bitterness, hurt and distrust among them. But by God’s grace a number of them honored my invitation to meet, talk and dialogue. I patiently listened to them share their grievances, bitterness, frustrations and challenges, as well as their philosophy of ministry.

I admonished and exhorted them, and underscored the importance of unity among them and amongst the body of Christ for the work of God to advance and flourish in Rwanda. I challenged them to begin a Pastor’s Monthly Prayer Meeting, where they will take turns hosting it among their different Churches. They are to gather for prayer, fellowship, worship and sharing to encourage one another every month.

They all embraced the idea and immediately chose the next meeting date, time and location. I’ve talked with our Coordinator, Pastor Dennis, in Rwanda a number of times, and he excitedly told me that they have met three times and each time more pastors join as the word about their gathering spreads. I was told that a fresh fire and hunger for unity has been ignited among them, and they want to know when I’m coming back with a team. It was quite humbling to see how God touched and moved the hearts of these people and their willingness to come together, to eat and fellowship. The Lord worked through your prayers."
Even in the midst of massive injustice, as with what took place in Rwanda, forgiveness is the starting point for lasting healing and reconciliation. Our sins have lasting consequences that have the potential to affect generations to come. The people of Rwanda will continue to deal with the sins of their fathers, just as we in America continue to reap the consequences of the sins of our forefathers. But healing is possible and I'm grateful for those like Blessed that are helping that to take place in one portion of the world.

To learn more about Blessed's ministry, Hallomai International, click here.

To read more about the history of the conflict in Rwanda click here or check out the award-winning movie, Hotel Rwanda.

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