Few would have thought that during the genocide which claimed some 800,000 lives, Rwanda would be a setting in which Jesus’ command on forgiveness would become manifest. However twenty years on, such forgiveness is self-evident in Rwanda’s communities being rebuilt through healing and reconciliation. The role of the Methodist Church in this new Rwanda’s history is a significant one. Through links with the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District, teams have travelled to Rwanda almost every year to visit different churches, encourage the reconciliation and healing effort, work with youth groups and assist with ongoing pastoral training.
Head of the Methodist Church in Rwanda Bishop Samuel Kayinamura, spoke at a meeting in Birmingham during the Conference, commemorating the genocide. Following the meeting he expressed heartfelt thanks to the church for the difference it is making, notably in rural village communities. “They assisted our hospital (Kibogora) in the west of the country, they provide the goats in the communities for the Goat Project where they give goats to communities in the poorest villages where people don’t have much land. Goats mean they can have fertiliser and they can grow vegetables. And they have given people mattresses, in the rural villages they have small houses and don’t have mattresses. Their lives are improving.” he said.
After the genocide Rwanda also needed assistance in training new ministers and the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District came forward. Now, Samuel informs, Methodism in Rwanda is flourishing and eighty ministers have been trained as a result of the District’s training initiatives. “During the genocide some church leaders felt they didn’t know how to be, how to have this prophetic voice. Some of them went on the side of government so that now we have some ministers who are in the prisons but after genocide the churches contributed a lot. They went to the prisons to teach the prisoners and perpetrators how to repent and to accept what they did.”
Samuel, who was a primary school teacher when the genocide broke, out is heartened by relationships fostered by the children in schools in the District and in Rwandan schools and the interest of the children he visits here in their counterparts overseas. “At the schools they have many questions about what life in Rwanda is like and how the children live, how they go to school,” he said adding “we just want to thank you very much. Thank the Methodist Church in Britain who are helping especially the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District because they know very much our suffering and they come along with us to back us up, to tell people in Rwanda that they are with them in prayers and in action and we’re very happy to see them when they come to Rwanda.”