Last week I visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial site in Kigali town and got to understand the extent and the heartbreaking background of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In this site were buried about 250, 000 people who died in the 1994 genocide that claimed over 1,000, 000 people in about 100 days. In our (my guide/friend and I) tour around the busy facility, I could observe many people who were overcome by emotions and breaking down in tears. Their painful memories (of the death of their loved ones at their helpless watch, rape, murder, deportation, untold injustices and inhuman activities) are still fresh in their minds. Their wounds are still in the process of healing two decades later.
The whole experience reminded me of several truths from the Bible that I want to share.
- The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9)- The issue of murder, of the minority Tutsi by the majority and ‘powerful’ Hutu in Rwandan genocide story, is not a Rwandan problem but a human problem. We are not unaware of other genocides that have happened in human history and in different parts of the world. The problem is a heart-problem. Naturally, the heart of man is unrighteous, full of hatred, division, and wickedness.
Apostle Paul quoted several scriptures in Romans 3:13-18 to show the vileness of the component parts of the whole of human nature, “their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God in their eyes.” In short, all men are sinners and man’s inner being is controlled by sin. And the inclination of man’s heart to evil is evident in our world today.
- The danger of words– The genocide in Rwanda like many other genocides and violence was inflamed by propaganda, verbal abuses, ethnic prejudices, messages full of hate and animosity, as well as broadcasts that degrade other tribes or people groups. Words, like fire, have power to destroy if not contained.
Apostle James wrote, “the tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body” (Jas. 3:6). He adds that the tongue “is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:8). The mouth speaks the contents of the heart; “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34); “Can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water” (Jas. 3:12).
- The role of justice in healing– For true healing to occur, justice has to be pursued. The planners, sponsors, and perpetrators of war, whether direct or indirectly, needs to be pursued and be held responsible for their actions. This is the path that Rwanda also took.
God is a God of justice and judgment; “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:24.
- The power of truth, forgiveness, and reconciliation– For two decades, Rwandans have been rebuilding lives and healing their wounds. This has happened through open confessions by the perpetrators on their role in the war and more importantly asking for forgiveness. This has hugely contributed to the healing of the nation and in developing harmonious relationships. It is said that time heals, but that may not be actually true; forgiveness heals.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus charges us to reciprocate forgiveness we have received, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” Matt. 6:12. The message of forgiveness is a message of love and acceptance. In addition, God has given us the ministry of reconciliation; reconciling men to God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:18). The heart-problem needs a Mediator/ Reconciler between man and God, who is Jesus Christ. And the church/Christians are called to be ambassadors of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation.
- God is doing a new thing– In the words of Apostle Paul, God’s people had long been, “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). The problems that many people here have gone through has not eclipsed their hope in Christ. You could see this hope alive in their churches services and in individual testimonies. God is using his church and the cross to bring about unity, healing, reconciliation and community transformation. God has also given the people of Rwanda political leaders that are committed at bringing people together. Evidently, God is at work transforming his people into the likeness of Christ.
#God Bless Rwanda.