By design, this blog avoids matters of politics and current events. But sometimes we are all thrust into these realms by no fault or choice of our own.
In my case, I used to attend, and be apart of the leadership team for, a church that was part of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA). This was—and still is—a vibrant church on Capitol Hill, witnessing to the many people who come through the DC metro area for professional or academic opportunities and, perhaps unexpectedly, find a robust and engaged community of believers that moves from the periphery to the center of that experience.
The AMIA connection—in particular its connections with Rwanda and the ongoing efforts to model reconciliation and forgiveness in the wake of a horrific genocide—was unusual. It lent a distinctive character and purpose to an otherwise 20-something oriented church in our nation’s capital. Through financial and other support, it also yielded a documentary film (which won a student Oscar) and an ongoing reconciliation project.
In 2012, the AMIA fractured, owing to complicated internal dynamics, and the parish and its two sister churches decided to disaffiliate and join another network called the Province de L’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda (PEAR USA), which retains connections to Rwanda. Since then, news reports about the political climate in Rwanda have become increasingly concerning—or perhaps have finally made their way into Western outlets.
Christians have a moral and spiritual obligation to remove themselves from any impropriety—or, more pointedly, to put a stop to any injustice. Christians who are connected to Rwanda through their church networks should be even more concerned, since their own leadership is directly tied to Rwandan authorities.
I have begun to compile a select list of news reports from recent months. I hope to add to them as I hear about others. There must be a concerted effort from PEAR-USA and its affiliated churches to gain some clarity about the evolving political situation in Rwanda. The rule of law, the freedom of the press, and the safety and protection of those who dissent must become a part of the government and culture of Rwanda if it is to be upheld as a kind of exemplar for reconciliation and forgiveness for the rest of the world. Otherwise, its reconciliation efforts are simply a smokescreen for the West—and potentially something far more dangerous.
Anjan Sundaram, Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship (Doubleday, 2016)
Rwanda’s Untold Story (documentary), produced by BBC This World, October 2014, https://vimeo.com/107867605
Geoffrey York and Judi Rever, “Assassination in Africa: Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents,” The Globe and Mail (May 2, 2014):
As revelations of murder plots and assassinations mount, easy narratives of good overcoming evil become more and more difficult to sustain. The reality in Rwanda is far more complex. The mass killings of the 1990s and the recent assassination plots left almost no one untainted.
Oscar Rickett, “Twenty Years After Its Genocide, Rwanda Still Has Problems,” Vice UK (May 1, 2014)—a decent overview with many links to original articles and interviews.
Ephraim Radner, “Anglicanism on Its Knees: Warnings Against Dangerous Political Coalitions for Christians,” First Things (May 2014):
Concerns about the character of our various churches’ attachments to players in the eastern Congo tragedy are generally suppressed through a desire to maintain ecclesial alliances; or, conversely, when such concerns are raised, they are dismissed and assigned to the motives of ecclesial politics. But we must not fool ourselves: the demise of truly catholic order and responsibility in something like the Anglican Communion mirrors the failures of global accountability in the secular world.
Reporters Without Borders, “Wave of Intimidation in Kigali Media” (April 28, 2014):
In the past few weeks, a journalist has been arrested, at least two others have fled abroad, and a news website has been hacked. While apparently not linked, these events have helped to fuel a climate of fear and self-censorship among media personnel.
Howard W. French, “How Rwanda’s Paul Kagame Exploits U.S. Guilt,” Wall Street Journal (April 19, 2014):
In 2010, an exhaustive U.N. report on a decade of Rwandan-sponsored conflict in Congo revealed that Mr. Kagame’s forces had carried out a highly targeted campaign against Rwandan and native Congolese Hutu, some of whom had fled to Congo after the genocide. Some experts have put the death toll as high as 300,000 people. The overwhelming majority of these victims, according to the report, were unarmed, including large numbers of women, children and the elderly.
For further background, I highly recommend the collection of articles released on the 20th anniversary of the genocide in the academic journal African Affairs.
See also Susan M. Thomson, Resisting Reconciliation: State Power and Everyday Life in Post-Genocide Rwanda (dissertation, Dalhousie University, May 2009), which was revised and published as Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013).
Please pray for the people and leadership of Rwanda.