Rwanda Faces Another Battle in the Aftermath of Genocide

Churches are coming together in efforts to fight HIV/AIDS crisis
( [email protected] ) May 06, 2004 08:49 AM EDT

While the whole world is sharing in grief as this month recognizes the 10-year anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, that has left 1 million people dead in 100 days, Rwanda is slowly recovering from the past tragedy yet facing another big battle against HIV/AIDS.

According to World Relief, just about 7 years ago, Rwandan church leaders were ignorant about AIDS – hardly considered it as a church priority. They were silent about the issue thinking that it is curse.

However today, the situation has changed in Rwanda. Although U.S. couldn’t stop the genocide killings of 1994, it is expanding its outreach to fight AIDS crisis under the control of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, providing funds to Rwanda and 13 other countries as well

Based on the survey that was conducted by World Relief, it was found that:

- 70 percent of churches reported holding an HIV/AIDS prevention or care activity in the previous month.

- Fifty-eight different denominations partner with the government and other community initiatives to bless their nation.

- 248 associations of people with AIDS meet inside church doors on a regular basis.

- More youth are committing themselves to abstinence. (Number raised from 67 percent to 88 percent report after the project began)

According to World Relief, 60 church leaders gathered in the same hotel where the genocide took place, the Hotel Milles des Collines in Kigali, Rwanda, but this time to bring hope to people by raising awareness of HIV/AIDS and training people to prevent AIDS pandemic.

World Relief’s HIV/AIDS ministry Mobilizing for Life, provided assistance to churches to release a study guide, Blessing, which tells the story of Rwandan churches challenging the AIDS crisis with the help of World Relief.

Debbie Dortzbach, World Relief's international HIV/AIDS program director, wrote in her report that although such tragic incident happened, leaving big scars in the hearts of Rwandans, Rwandan churches are working hard to turn that tragedy into a blessing that spread out through out the communities. They are overcoming hatred as they are paving the way for communities to learn to trust one another again in the aftermath of the genocide.

According to Dortzbach, “AIDS has become an agent of reconciliation. Rwandans share their lessons of changing hate to love, denial to acceptance, and apathy to action.”

Mobilizing for Life is the global HIV/AIDS church-based intervention of World Relief and operates in eight countries in Africa, China, Cambodia and Haiti.