Thought for the Day - 05/04/2014 - Rev Rob Marshall

Good Morning

When the Genocide began in Rwanda exactly twenty years ago tomorrow, it is perhaps fair to say that many of us did not fully understand what was happening. That may have changed somewhat with the benefit of hindsight.

Those who survived the massacre are the true lights in what was a deep darkness. Imaculee Lil/Bag/Iza spent 91days hiding in a tiny bathroom with 7 other women not knowing when and if they might be found and slaughtered.[1] But twenty years on, she is an evangelist for forgiveness. Similarly, Sylvia Is(i)Mbi survived by hiding with her father, and poignantly observes how she felt as if God had left her. She survived. And now speaks of the real comfort she received from members of the Pentecostal Church.[2]

The fact that tribal loyalties can be stronger in conflict than a shared faith is not unique to Rwanda. There are many examples in world history of violence and division amongst people, regardless of faith, for many complex and inter-related reasons.

The even bigger issue, which has been raised again recently by the late Dr David Fisher in his book Morality & War, concerns humanitarian intervention:[3] why was it that the international community including the UN Security Council failed to intervene and to stop the voilence in Rwanda? And are we today any nearer to being members of an international community which is more able to effectively intervene when innocent civilians are in grave danger?

Dr Fisher suggested that clear criteria for a just intervention needed to be defined, agreed in advance by the international community and then rigorously and consistently applied. But the ongoing suffering of the people of Syria, this very day, where the number of refugees continues to escalate - suggests that arriving at such a point is easier said than done.

It is nevertheless remarkable how many people like Imaculee and Sylvia hung on to their faith despite many of the atrocities which took place in Rwanda. I have heard testimonies with my own ears from those affected by what they saw and experienced urging us not to forget that faith remained actually their only hope, despite the apparent ease with which some perpetrators of the violence cast it to one side.

Contemporary Rwanda seems, thank God, to be a very different place. It has, apparently, been transformed in the past two decades. But on Thursday in Rome Pope Francis called together the Rwandan bishops and he prayed with them for ongoing healing. He spoke of his deep mourning for those still dealing with the horror of what took place and told them: “strive for reconciliation. If the road is long and requires patience, dialogue and mutual respect, it is a road we must follow”.

[3] Dr Fisher died at the start of last month after suffering a heart attack. He taught at King’s College, London

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