After spending a week last year in Rwanda (my second visit there), I came away convinced more than ever that this central African nation of Christians is becoming a global lab for testing new models of Christian forgiveness.
In Rwanda, individuals and institutions forged an unholy alliance that supported and participated in the 1994 genocide that killed 800,000 or more people. In one infamous case, a bishop gave refuge to fleeing Tutsis and Hutus. His staff carefully checked ID cards and noted the location of all Tutsis on the compound. When murderous Hutu militia arrived, the bishop handed the Tutsis over to them, only giving them one restriction: that no killing should take place on his grounds. No one survived.
The church itself must be forgiven. "The failure of the church in the genocide is an opportunity for the church to cleanse itself and ask for forgiveness," says Anglican Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini. "Are we going to be obedient?"
In my home town, people (me included) love to complain about their church, and especially the other people in it. It's right up there next to our petty resentments toward bosses, spouses, and unruly kids (or the Cubs). On my initial trip to Rwanda in 1999, I visited the church at Ntarama, and I realized again that American Christians have not one thing to complain about. Before that visit, I had no idea how unforgettable the smell of decaying human bones is. Surrounding the small church building in Ntarama, the trees bear witness to genocide by the deep machete scars on their trunks. Inside the church, I was unable to see the floor. The bones of genocide victims were piled deep and high.
On my second trip, I discovered faithful Christians at every level of society from gardeners up to government ...1
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