All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (1st Corinthians 5: 18-21 NIVUK)
One of the most difficult parts of my recent trip to Rwanda was learning of the country’s recent history: specifically, the events leading up to and during the 1994 genocide. The events of that time were appalling: 800,000 people were murdered over a period of 100 days. The death and destruction brought the country to its knees: lives were lost, infrastructure destroyed, and the ability to function ruined.
If you visit Rwanda today, it is impossible to tell that these horrific events took place, 24 years ago. Homes have been rebuilt, roads re-surfaced, and the country functions once again, just like any other. Given the level of destruction, this was achieved in record time. And it could only be achieved if the whole country united and worked together in the rebuilding process. The question is this: how could such a divided population be brought together? How could there be reconciliation between Hutu and Tutsi, after the pain and suffering caused by one on the other?
On the one hand, the government which took over in 1994 led a huge campaign of reconciliation. The new leadership understood that the only way for the country to move forward was to bring people back together. Yet, with the best will in the world, governments cannot manufacture the kind of deep healing and reconciliation which was required for Rwanda to move forward.
During the genocide, the Church did not give herself a good name. While in some places, the Church worked to help those being killed, in others she stood by and did nothing; in others still, the Church was complicit in the killings! After the genocide, and despite the poor reputation of the Church, the message of the Gospel rang out through Rwanda: a message of the deep reconciliation Jesus achieved between us and God. If Jesus can reconcile us, horrid sinners, to God, perhaps He could also reconcile the Hutu and Tutsi?
Today, 94% of Rwandans identify as Christians. While this figure may be inflated by those who identify because it’s the cultural thing to do, the fact that the country has been, and continues to be, reconciled after such a dark period suggests to me that a majority do seriously believe this Gospel, and have allowed it to shape their lives and their actions.
The Gospel of reconciliation is so powerful, it can re-unite a country divided by ethnicity and genocide. I wonder: what could this same Gospel achieve here, if we took the same approach, sharing it believing and being confident in its power?
Some food for your thoughts. God bless, Stuart