Lord Carey

The Church of England - - Feature -

Last week Eileen and I vis­ited Rwanda for the sec­ond time. We were there to share in fi­nal acts of com­mem­o­ra­tion of the geno­cide 20 years ago, to lead the House of Bish­ops Re­treat and to see some Tear­fund projects.

What a dif­fer­ent visit. Nine­teen years ago we were among the first vis­i­tors af­ter the geno­cide. The coun­try was trau­ma­tised from the shock­ing tribal con­flict that left 20 per cent of the na­tion dead and tens of thou­sands of or­phans and wid­ows. Our Church was not ex­empt from the wounds ei­ther. Few bish­ops had re­mained at their post and those who had, with their re­main­ing clergy and people, were bro­ken and ashamed.

I still re­call the words of a Ro­man Catholic bishop who said: “Arch­bishop, the blood of trib­al­ism is thicker that the wa­ters of bap­tism.” So it seemed from that visit.

Nei­ther Eileen nor I can for­get one of the meet­ings in the Cathe­dral where hun­dreds of Angli­cans had gath­ered to wel­come us, when it just col­lapsed into ac­cu­sa­tions, con­dem­na­tion and as close to vi­o­lence as a meet­ing could get.

In that Cathe­dral Church, the Dean of the Cathe­dral, Alphonse Kahurije, a for­mer MA stu­dent of mine at Trin­ity Col­lege, Bris­tol, had been mur­dered and his body never re­cov­ered.

An­other un­for­get­table part of that visit was a ser­vice in the par­ish of Ruhanga, some miles from Ki­gali, where 32,000 – yes, that is not a slip of the pen - had been slaugh­tered. I laid the foun­da­tion stone of the new church and it was good to pay it a sec­ond visit and see the church pros­per­ing.

In that space of 19 years how things have changed! The coun­try is do­ing very well and in a pri­vate meet­ing with the Pres­i­dent I was left in no doubt of the progress made - in ed­u­ca­tion, so­cial in­te­gra­tion and health care. It is a dif­fer­ent coun­try and so is the Church.

In early 1995 Bishop One­sephore Rawje, dean of the House of Bish­ops - a godly and out­stand­ing bishop – seemed to be the only sta­ble in­flu­ence. Now Arch­bishop, One­sephore continues his re­mark­able min­istry as a car­ing, re­laxed leader with mis­sion at the heart of all he does.

The Com­mem­o­ra­tion ser­vices were long yet in­spir­ing. At Ruhanga Church we met a young man called Eric who was 13 when the killings com­menced in and around the church. People had fled to the church be­liev­ing that they were safe there. The Army ar­rived and started shoot­ing. Eric’s mother was killed and he was hid­den by her body.

Hours passed and then the killers re­turned to fin­ish off those who could be heard groan­ing. They pre­tended to be res­cuers and promised help. The sur­vivors stood up only to find that they were in the hands of the mur­der­ers again. They were lined up in two groups. Those who had money could pay and at least get a quick death by shoot­ing. The fate of those with­out money was to have their throat cut by ma­chete.

Eric, who had no money, stood be­hind a lady who gave the killers 1,000 Rwan­dan francs - about 90p. She was shot and, again, he was pro­tected by the lady’s body. Eric and his small sis­ter, who was just 5, were the only sur­vivors of a fam­ily of seven.

And there was Dorothy Muka­murenzi who was at that ser­vice in 1995 as a sur­vivor of the geno­cide. She was just 11. She said that some­thing I had said in my ser­mon was the start of her jour­ney to­wards Chris­tian ser­vice. Now or­dained, we vis­ited her par­ish at Ntunga where, among the many vis­i­ble signs of a grow­ing church, she is leading a course on ‘sex­ual vi­o­lence’, which is spon­sored and as­sisted by Tear­fund.

We were de­lighted to see the ex­tent of the links be­tween Tear­fund and the Angli­can Church of the Prov­ince. We saw some in­spir­ing ex­am­ples of the faith in ac­tion. A mush­room fac­tory, mi­cro-fi­nanc­ing projects led and shaped by or­di­nary mem­bers of con­gre­ga­tion and other de­vel­op­ment projects that have given people hope and brought them out of poverty.

Cen­tral to Tear­fund’s vi­sion in Rwanda is the pri­or­ity given to trans­form­ing the lives of people and this was echoed in ev­ery visit we made.

When I teas­ingly asked what was the link be­tween a mush­room and the gospel, I was told in no un­cer­tain man­ner by one of the lay lead­ers that it was the gospel that led the people to con­sider in­vest­ing in mush­rooms. In the few years the fac­tory was built - by the people them­selves – it had blessed the lives of 1,300 people al­ready and ex­pan­sion was planned.

I led a two-day House of Bish­ops Re­treat and found these church lead­ers in good heart with a huge de­sire to be ef­fec­tive, mis­sion­ary lead­ers.

Yes, the Angli­can Prov­ince of Rwanda is a poor church if one mea­sures it in fi­nan­cial terms. But it is im­mensely rich in hu­man re­sources, courage and faith. It can never for­get the geno­cide and never should, but it has learned many lessons from those har­row­ing and hor­ri­fy­ing events. This is a church that can teach the West many things as long as we have the hu­mil­ity to learn them.

As we drove to­wards the air­port to fly home I no­ticed one of the ban­ners that is every­where in Rwanda. It read ‘Kwibuka: Re­mem­ber: Unite: Re­new’. Ge­orge Carey and Eileen Carey are vice-pres­i­dents of

Tear­fund.

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