Reformed Church Head Calls Rwanda Christians to Lead Healing Efforts

( [email protected] ) Aug 23, 2007 09:08 AM EDT

After living through the genocide of 1994 that killed almost a million people, the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda was urged to be a leader in the effort to heal and transform the war-torn country.

"As a church we need to be at the forefront of bringing healing in every way,” said Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), during a service celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda.

That, he said, includes “healing between peoples, healing of memories, healing in families, healing in the lives of our children who have been forced to grow up without parents, caring for and walking alongside persons with HIV/AIDS and other diseases.”

Rwanda – which is internationally known for the infamous 1994 genocides that resulted in the deaths of as many as 1 million people in as few as 100 days – has a long and tragic history of conflict, violence and serial genocide. It is also a country where chronic malnutrition is widespread and poverty endemic.

During the centenary celebration of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda, WARC’s Nyomi congratulated the church on coming through the many challenges and for its efforts to transform the country.

“[T]his church could have simply recoiled into a spiritual ghetto of self-preservation or protection of its own tribes,” the Reformed Church leader pointed out to the thousands gathered Sunday in a stadium in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. “But no, with confidence in God, you have pulled through each challenge and committed yourself to prophetic witness as partners with Christ in transforming Rwandan society."

Still, he said, there is much to be done in Rwanda and through Africa.

While many churches are reluctant to speak and act boldly, Nyomi called on the Rwandan church to rededicate itself to serving God by seeking justice over the next 100 years.

“We need to be a healed and healing church,” he said, according to a WARC report.

Elisée Musemakweli, president of the church and a member of the WARC Executive Committee, also urged the church to take the centennial anniversary as an opportunity to transform itself for a new era.

"As we end 100 years of witness and we are starting another 100 years, it is important we should take strategies that will help us remain Christians whose actions are consistent with what we say," said Musemakweli, according to the WARC.

Nyomi urged the believers to “be the prophetic voice, speaking out against every form of injustice” such as discrimination against women, poverty, and inequality.

“[W]e are partners with Christ, the light of the world whose coming exposes the works of darkness,” he proclaimed.

“[T]he Presbyterian Church in Rwanda and all partners witnessing this centennial celebrations today are called to be different,” he added. “The church in Africa is called to be different. God's people in this world are called to be different.”

"Today, as we celebrate the centenary of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda, let us commit ourselves to holding firmly to the end the confidence we once had," Nyomi concluded.