Laurent Mbanda praises Paul Kagame at GAFCON

Archbishop Mbanda speaks to GAFCON

GAFCON’s latest conference in Jerusalem (2018) won nearly universal praise from orthodox circles within the Anglican Communion, and rightfully so. However, the perennial problem of Westerners not having any idea what goes on in Africa reared its head when Archbishop Laurent Mbanda of Rwanda delivered a talk called “God’s World.”

Mbanda, an outspoken fan of Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, was made Archbishop this year. In his presentation to GAFCON he said, “…forgive me but I also love our President.” Mbanda told a story about Paul Kagame in the context of telling orthodox Anglicans to reject money and buildings from heterodox branches of the church. He said:

I love the country of Rwanda, and forgive me but I also love our President. Some time back there was an embargo on the country of Rwanda where they were saying that they need to freeze all the moneys that were given to the country. And I got that inspiration in me, he said, our President said, “With the little money that we are giving that seems like IV coming in to us, can we sell who we are, can we sell our identity?” And the people of Rwanda said “no.”

The little money that was coming from the countries that were trying to help the country, within a short time, in a time of six months I believe, Rwanda started what they called, the Dignity Fund, and that fund raised more money than those countries were giving us within six months. (applause)

And I know sometimes that we are tempted with that money that comes from those places, that makes us sometimes sell our soul. There is no way we should be afraid of saying, “keep your money,” of saying, “keep your buildings,” of saying, “keep what you have, we have Jesus and will proclaim him faithfully in our nations.”

This story was greeted by applause, as the GAFCON delegates presumably knew little to nothing about the actual circumstances mentioned. Let’s look at the facts behind this glowing story from Abp. Mbanda:

The Rwandan government established the Agaciro (Dignity) Fund after donors froze an estimated US$75m in aid, following the publication of a UN report in mid-2012 that claimed to provide evidence of Rwanda’s support for the M23, a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Rwandan government denied the charges.1)The Economist

As a refresher, Rwanda supported M23, a military group that was essentially an extension of the Rwandan military attempting to detach the Congo’s Kivu provinces from the DRC. M23 buried people alive, raped, tortured, slaughtered and kidnapped children to be soldiers. All of this was supported by previous Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini as well as retired Bishop John Rucyahana.

As a result of this, Western nations decided to slap Rwanda’s wrist and froze some aid, which is vital to Rwanda’s poor economy. This of course infuriated Paul Kagame who then trumpeted the Dignity Fund as a defiant jab at the Western powers he relies on.

Bringing this back to Archbishop Mbanda: he is telling a story to GAFCON about the loss of money due to very real war crimes and using it as an example of how to stand up to the man. He can rely on Western ignorance to get away with storytelling like this. In fact, GAFCON’s media arm subsequently linked to his presentation on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. Indeed, GAFCON has made Mbanda a leader of the movement, something which should trouble Anglicans.

References   [ + ]

1. The Economist

Archbishop Isingoma asks if Kolini is up for another term?

The Twitter account of Congolese Archbishop Henri Isingoma links to a picture of former Rwandan Archbishop Kolini at the recent AMiA consecrations, and asks:

Abp Kolini, is (up) for another term as bishop?  Here in front of his bishops



The strange, perhaps unprecedented, situation that what is left of AMiA finds itself in never fails to surprise me.

Archbishop Rwaje on the East African Revival and the 1994 Genocide

Archbishop Rwaje at GAFCON in 2013
Archbishop Rwaje at GAFCON in 2013

In the course of responding to questions about the East African Revival at GAFCON’s 2013 meeting in Nairobi, the Archbishop of Rwanda, Onesphore Rwaje talked about the relationship of the revival to the 1994 genocide. 1)His remarks begin here. He says:

…and I don’t know whether it is one of the questions you would like to ask me, let me respond to it before asking this question.  You may hear there is a contradiction and there is in fact, a country where revival movement was born, 1930’s—a second revival and the same time the country where has been a genocide against the Tutsis. 2)He is using the official government term for the genocide. Deviation from using “against the Tutsi” is a signal inside Rwanda that you question the regime’s narrative of events. That’s a contradiction, that’s a contradiction, and we are requesting ourselves what’s happened; 1960’s onward mainly within the church, mainly within the revival.

But after analyzing there {were a} few remnants among the revivalists in fact who stood against {the genocide} and we have testimony, some of them were killed and others are testifying for that. So that’s a contradiction and we have to bear that and this is a challenge we have to bear that not only for revival even for the church itself.

Archbishop Rwaje seems to be saying that the Anglican Church in Rwanda is trying to figure out what happened after the 1960’s that caused a nation of 85% Christians to slaughter one another. This is a good question, and you can see that for all the talk of revival and reconciliation before the genocide, it did nothing to stop the killing:

Moreover, by 1990, the Anglican church was deeply involved in internal wrangling and divisions. They were focused on jealousies and bitterness between Adoniya Sebununguri, bishop of Kigali, and John Ndandali, bishop of the second diocese of Butare, created in 1978. The conflict was focused on who would become the first Archbishop of the new Anglican province of Rwanda created in 1992. Although personal factors were paramount in this conflict, it did strangely parallel political divisions between the ‘north,’ where the deeply unpopular president came from, and a ‘south,’ which felt excluded. A series of other conflicts among the leadership of the churches began to disfigure the Anglican church: based on personal and family rivalries, regional differences, political disputes (as a multi-party system was introduced). Hutu-Tutsi divisions were only one of many factors fueling and sustaining these disputes.  Often the rhetoric of the Revival was introduced into the disputes. At high-profile meetings of reconciliation, church leaders confessed and sang Tukutenderza in the old spirit of the Balokole [Balokole means ‘saved’ – editor] fellowship, but these occasions did not seem to have the power to transform the faction-riven nature of the church. The form of Revival had replaced its genuine spirit. 3) “Christianity, Revival and the Rwandan Genocide,” Kevin Ward.

Bishop Laurent Mbanda tells us that some participants in the revival meetings were active killers in 1994:

Christian survivors of the genocide who participated in these evangelical meetings tell stories of church members and testifying Christians who, having attended the same meetings, were later seen in the uniforms and activities of Interahamwe (militia). During the killings, many were also seen at roadblocks with machetes. It is hard to believe, but reported by trustworthy individuals.

Unfortunately, the pattern of acquiescence with evil has continued as clergy support many evil actions of the Kagame regime. For example, bishops Rucyahana and Kolini supported and raised funds for M23, a group that kidnapped child soldiers, raped and murdered in the DRC. Before we rush to embrace the East African Revival, it is wise to ask what its legacy is in the world outside of church meetings, in the nitty gritty of political life and society.

Some related posts on the Revival are here: 1, 2, 3, 4.

References   [ + ]

1. His remarks begin here.
2. He is using the official government term for the genocide. Deviation from using “against the Tutsi” is a signal inside Rwanda that you question the regime’s narrative of events.
3. “Christianity, Revival and the Rwandan Genocide,” Kevin Ward.

What Does Archbishop Beach’s Election Mean for ACNA?

Newly elected Archbishop Beach. ACNA photograph.
Newly elected Archbishop Beach. ACNA photograph.

What does the election of Bishop Foley Beach mean for ACNA? I have a few guesses and thoughts, all of which may look foolish when his term expires in 2024, but which I am recording nonetheless.

1. The first-generation era of the Realignment is over. Leaders such as Bishop Minns, Chuck Murphy, John Guernsey and Archbishop Duncan will no longer lead ACNA or the sub-jurisdictions. This is a good thing. While they achieved a great deal, it is time for a new wave of leaders with ACNA. I date the beginning of the realignment from the First Promise / AMiA consecrations and the end (or the end of the beginning) to the collapse of AMiA, the election of Bishop Dobbs in CANA and now Bishop Beach for ACNA.

2. Picking Bishop Beach should unite the tribes, at least to a degree. Bishop Beach appears to be a middle of the road, generic evangelical, and that’s just fine. He is against the ordination of women to the ministry, which satisfies both Reformed Anglicans and Anglo Catholics. He preaches a very Biblical salvation message, which should satisfy all of us, but particularly those who may have supported a Guernsey candidacy. His election should put at ease those who may have wondered what direction ACNA was heading had Bishop Guernsey won.

3. There will be a continued growth narrative for ACNA because the Diocese of South Carolina will join up once the dust settles. If this happens, ACNA’s numbers will jump quite a bit, although they are starting from a small base. We have to realize that in the world of Southern Baptists, the Assembly of God, and many other denominations, ACNA is a small fish in a big pond. Even the PCA had 335,000 members as of 14 years ago. So Anglican 1000 is good and necessary, but the ACNA growth story is a bit illusory right now.

4. His election makes the end of affinity dioceses more likely. Unless there are obvious theological reasons, there is really no reason for CANA and PEAR USA to continue to exist. The feeling I had listening to Bishop Dobbs preach at PEAR USA’s “Moving Forward Together” Assembly in 2012 was that things were still so muddled and ACNA’s theology so unclear, that we should maintain these African-run organizations. I don’t think that is the case anymore, and that is due to Archbishop-elect Beach. The centrist, big-tent version of ACNA is being cemented into place with the possible ten-year term of Archbishop Beach. We don’t need PEAR USA and CANA as lifeboats. I think we will see PEAR USA wrap up operation in his first five years and I hope CANA does the same.

5. Along the same lines, with the completion of a Prayer Book on the horizon, and the Catechism in place, what ACNA stands for in broad terms is now apparent. I will write more about this at another time, but my point is that the identity of ACNA is now stabilizing, and is not totally up for grabs in the way it might have been had we seen a strong Anglo-Catholic elected, or another pro-WO bishop. There should be progress on WO under Archbishop Beach, but I don’t think it will be totally rolled back.

6. Archbishop Beach gets social media, at least to an extent not seen to date by other leading bishops. He has a blog, he has a Twitter account, he is not allergic to the year 2014. Hopefully this means that the disturbing tendency of some in ACNA to want to rein in speech on the internet or try to control the message will fade out.

7. GAFCON will continue, but what does it really mean? I don’t see much evidence that GAFCON enforces the Jerusalem Declaration or the Nairobi Communique. There seems to be no GAFCON disciplinary apparatus at all, which means that it is just another voluntary grouping, which will work as long as the member churches want it to, and no longer. Without launching an exhaustive survey, I believe that the Jerusalem Declaration (JD) was a good deal more Reformed in outlook than what ACNA looks to be. ACNA wrote the JD into its founding documents, but is there any enforcement mechanism of these standards at all?

I expect Archbishop Beach to continue with GAFCON and praise it, but I don’t know what that means practically for ACNA. I hope he educates himself on the problems inherent with member nations like Uganda and Rwanda, where churches are tightly aligned with dictators (see Ephraim Radner’s recent First Things article). I hope he lives up to what the Nairobi Communique said about violence against people, not just in the case of Western abortion, but also with nations like Rwanda, where our State Department is more prophetic than PEAR USA has ever been about disappearing citizens and support for rebellions in neighboring nations. This Church-State alliance threatens to make GAFCON a body that cares about some ethical standards while completely ignoring other, possibly weightier matters. Realistically, I don’t think Bishop Beach will say much about this, but I hope so.

Finally, while there are challenges ahead of him, I don’t think they are as great as those faced by Archbishop Duncan. I think things are settling down and the version of ACNA that exists in 2019 or 2024 will be far more stable than it is even today.

Anglocostalism in Nigeria

The Rev. Jesse Zink (Episcopalian) has written a paper about Anglicans in Nigeria, (here). His paper shows a fusion of Anglican and Pentecostal beliefs. For example:

Rather than persist in their opposition, some Anglican leaders began to embrace the new religious practices. Kailing noticed this in the early 1990s. A revival in the Niger Delta Diocese was held and ‘posters promoting the program, promising miracles of healing and deliverance, were indistinguishable from the innumerable pentecostal evangelical posters which dot the city throughout the year’. At the event, when the bishop began to speak ‘virtually everything he said could have come from a pentecostal evangelical primer’.The chancellor of the diocese, a respected judge, spoke and began by saying, ‘I was born an Anglican, but now I am an Anglican pentecostal!’ This single event is indicative of a broader trend of profound changes worth examining in detail. The factors associated with Pentecostalism – worship, a gospel of prosperity, an awareness of the supernatural world, a tendency to dismiss other Christians, and a unique weight given to the Bible – have all, to one degree or another, worked their way into the character of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

The archdeacon quoted at the beginning of this paper 1)‘If the Pentecostals are singing and dancing around, let us do that too. Let the pastor jump around. Let us change the liturgy.’ is a good example of the change in worship styles, in his willingness to set aside a liturgical heritage to embrace new charismatic practices. Indeed, worship services in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) have become charismatic and free-flowing. At one service of evening prayer I attended, the open intercessions included two participants speaking in tongues. When that concluded, the congregation recited the Apostles’ Creed together. At a separate service, a bishop of a major eastern diocese told the congregation that ‘our services are lively. The spirit is in our liturgy and that gives us power.’ Few Anglican bishops of the 1970s or 1980s would have thought a ‘lively’ service a good thing. The liveliness is, in part, attributable to new music. Mainline congregations have begun to use music generated by the neo-Pentecostals. The use of drums and dancing has also gradually spread into churches. Although the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has recently adopted a new prayer book, its text does not seem to be widely adhered to. In one service I attended, the invitation to confession – one sentence in the prayer book – took nearly ten minutes, as the worship leader reminded the congregation of God’s forgiveness and the importance of repentance, citing examples from Scripture and his own life. I asked an archdeacon in an eastern diocese if he used the set prayers in his church. ‘Not very much’, he responded. ‘Mostly we use extemporaneous prayers. But,’ he quickly added, ‘it is still within the ambit of Anglicanism’. (It is unclear whom or what he thought set the parameters of this ‘ambit’.) While the prayer book is still a part of the church, these examples show the way in which it can be submerged in contemporary worship practices.

Zink says that the Prosperity Gospel is deeply embedded in Nigerian Anglicanism. 

The prosperity gospel of neo-Pentecostals has – as the bishop quoted at the beginning of the paper noted – begun to exercise an increasing influence over Anglican preachers. In one eastern diocese, the same bishop who noted the ‘lively’ services preached an hour-long sermon, the first half of which was on the opening verses of the book of Joshua, in which God reaffirms the gift of the Promised Land. The bishop referenced the death of Moses, with which the passage begins:

Your past represents the Biblical Moses. This morning I see little Joshuas sitting in this congregation, thinking about the challenges they will face in the future. Is anyone here a Joshua? God knows there are challenges ahead of you. That is why he is making you a Joshua. Today, heaven is laying a hand on you to do wonders in your life and family. Someone will arise this morning. There is a family that has been living in crisis that will come out of that crisis this morning.

Citing problems like a lack of money and sickness, he continued, ‘Somebody is going to cross over this morning. You will go over that Jordan. Your future will be greater than your past. As from today, anywhere you put the sole of your feet, he will give it to youy. Jesus is calling you with more power than he called Joshua.’ The sermon was greeted with enthusiastic ‘amens’ and ‘hallelujahs’ from the congregation. (A later section of the sermon, on the importance of unity within church congregations, failed to generate any such response.) Nor was this the only such sermon. In a northern diocese, a priest preached on a portion of Lk. 6.38, ‘give and it will be given you’, with no mention of any of the context of the passage. His message was simple: ‘He has promised you as an individual that you will overflow.’ At another service, when it came time for the offering, the pastor announced ‘Offering time!’ and the people responded as one, ‘Blessing time!’

Given the continued ACNA ties to Nigeria via GAFCON and CANA, American Anglicans would do well to educate themselves on what their Church partners believe. The Church in Nigeria is a suffering Church, under assault from Islam, but how much do we know about it beyond that?

References   [ + ]

1. ‘If the Pentecostals are singing and dancing around, let us do that too. Let the pastor jump around. Let us change the liturgy.’

New Cantrell Paper on PEAR

Professor Phillip Cantrell has just published a new paper that traces the East Africa Revival and its impact on the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR) after the genocide. It’s called “We Were a Chosen People”: The East African Revival and Its Return To Post-Genocide Rwanda, published in Church History 83:2 (June 2014), 422–445.

Cantrell points out that the current Anglican Church of Rwanda is complicit with the RPF’s sanitized version of Rwandan history:

Although many contemporary clergy and parishioners in Rwanda are either unaware of it or deny it, the Anglican Church contributed to ethnic division in the past. And, it is doing so again in the post-genocide state. The leadership of the Anglican Church is largely comprised of Tutsi returnees. Its leaders accept and endorse a misleading portrayal of Rwanda’s history, a history endorsed by the ruling party which serves to mask ethnic divisions in the past and social tensions in the present. The church, at times, even builds upon some of the traditions of the Tutsi monarchy.

The RPF version of history (which I have seen parroted in books like Bishop Laurent Mbanda’s) has been debunked by recent historians:

But the remembrance of the Revival as a time of unity between Hutus and Tutsis is problematic in several respects. The official version of Rwanda’s history, endorsed by the RPF regime in Kigali, asserts Rwanda had always been a harmonious country with no conflict or differences between Hutus and Tutsis prior to the racialization of the country under Belgian rule in the 1920s. This author, though, is in agreement with numerous Rwanda scholars, such as Catherine Newbury, Alison Des Forges, and Jan Vansina, who claim the distinction between Hutus and Tutsis was firmly established by the end of the nineteenth century during the reign of Mwami Rwabugiri. Following their arguments, Johan Pottier argues the RPF’s version of the past is used by the Tutsi-dominated regime to mask past oppression of the Hutus and blame the genocide on Europeans.

Along with a revisionist history of the nation, PEAR has embraced a revisionist history of the East African Revival itself, one which claims that the Holy Spirit was virtually absent from Rwanda from 1959 to 1994:

More important than the recounting the Revival’s history through the colonial and post-colonial periods is the contention of this article that the Revival has become the focus of much attention as the Anglican Church has regained its status in post-genocide Rwanda. And along with the ascendency of the post-genocide Anglican Church and the Revival has come a renewed and often revisionist interpretation of the Revival’s history, meaning, and implications for the country.

This is explicitly stated in the following paragraph:

Central to the theology of the current Balokole Revival Movement is the belief that only the Holy Spirit can move people’s hearts to repentance, reform and ultimately revival. Thus, for the Balokole, the revival movement comes and goes with the Holy Spirit, which, as they explain it, left Rwanda in 1959 with the Tutsi refugees but returned with them, their descendants, after the genocide. A retired headmaster of a school in Shyogwe during the 1950s, who left for Uganda after the 1959 Revolution but who now lives in Gahini, claimed there was “no Holy Spirit in Rwanda during the 1960s but [the Spirit] was in Uganda,” presumably with the Tutsi Diaspora. This belief, that the troubles which beset Rwanda during the years from 1959 and until the genocide was over occurred because of the parting of the revival spirit with the Tutsi Balokole, is widespread and endorsed from the highest levels of PEAR.

Cantrell relates a story that retired Archbishop Kolini 1)Currently one of the AMiA’s “College of Consultors.” told him: “Former Archbishop Kolini explained to this author that when the Tutsis, of which he is one, left Rwanda for the refugee camps in Uganda in 1959, the Spirit left as well.” But contrary to Kolini’s theory, Hutus that were part of the Revival legacy stood up against the single party state and the genocide it inspired:

In 1986, three hundred members of the Abarokore and several other Christian sects were brought to trial for refusing to pay the state-required membership dues in the ruling MRND party and for failing to venerate the Rwandan state and its symbols of sovereignty. When the genocide began, a disproportionate number of the Abarokore, including soldiers and policemen, refused to participate. A number of witnesses reported to Longman how people sometimes saved Tutsis from the genocide because they were “umurokore,” a member of the Abarokore. So despite Kolini’s claims, elements of the Revival survived in pre-genocide Rwanda, questioning the policies of Habyarimana’s regime and their church leaders’ collusion with its policies. Interestingly, several interviewees admitted that some Hutus affected by the Revival spirit did not participate in the genocidal killings, and indeed the Anglican hierarchy today includes a small number of Hutu bishops, most prominently Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, formally Bishop of Byumba Diocese.

Cantrell says that despite public protestations that there are no more ethnic divisions, privately all Rwandans know this is not the case (something that the current ndi Umunyarwanda campaign proves even the government knows good and well). The current Archbishop of PEAR is forced to disown his own ethnic background in totalitarian Rwanda:

In a perhaps unexpected way, the contention by many Anglican Church figures of the Revival bringing unity between Hutus and Tutsis serves to undermine the official version of Rwanda’s history, a version that PEAR does not challenge otherwise. Church figures publicly contend there are no more Hutus and Tutsis, only Rwandans. Privately, they know otherwise, although it’s technically illegal in Rwanda to even ask. At a dinner conversation in Byumba Diocese with Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, this author was corrected and gently chastised on this point when he used the terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi.” Later, and privately, Rwaje admitted he “used to be a Hutu,” the only bishop in Rwanda, incidentally, of whom this is true.

Archbishop Rwaje says, “I used to be a Hutu”

Much of PEAR’s political quietism can be traced to the influence of the Keswick Revival in the U.K. Cantrell has some interesting points about this, which are not directly germane to politics in Rwanda, but are of interest to Anglicans in the West. For example, he says that Rwandan Anglicans are unsure if Pentecostal “sign gifts” were evident in the East African Revival in Rwanda:

Another prominent theme in the church’s recounting of the Revival’s history was the alleged harmony between Hutus and Tutsis. Nearly always, when asked what the Revival means for Rwanda, the first point made was the unity it brought between the two groups and the same revival spirit would unite Rwanda again. In actuality, the supposed unity brought about by the Revival was remembered far more than the specific practices of it. For example, several interviewees were unclear and in disagreement about whether the so-called “sign gifts” of the Holy Spirit were practiced by the Balokole at the start of the Revival.

He says that Keswick’s legalistic codes were imported into PEAR:

The Revival’s new-found impact on the post-genocide Anglicans is evident outside of church gatherings as well. The use of alcohol and tobacco products and gambling is strictly prohibited and formal Western dress-codes are adhered to closely, especially by men.

He shows how Simeon Nsibambi, a pioneer of the Revival in Rwanda, came under the dreadful influence of Charles Finney’s theology:

Nsibambi, born in 1897, was an officer in the public health department of the Ugandan civil service. Educated at CMS schools in Kampala and at King’s College in Budo, he served as a sergeant in the African Native Medical Corps during World War I, which interrupted his career. Nsibambi, in a 1952 interview, claimed his first conversion to Christ was on a ship bound for Zanzibar during the war. Nsibambi further claimed to have a “second conversion” by the Holy Spirit in 1922, a direct reflection of the Keswick teachings and the Higher Life Movement.
Throughout the 1920s, Nsibambi was involved in church matters and teaching, often leading Bible study groups in the evenings. In 1929, he resigned from his post in the Ugandan health department and devoted himself to full time evangelism. According to Richard MacMaster, based upon interviews he conducted among the participants, Nsibambi was impressed with American evangelist Charles Finney’s 1835 book Lectures on Revival. Finney’s ideas influenced the Keswick holiness movement and the Anglican revivalists of Uganda and Rwanda.

This is yet another article that should be required reading for PEAR USA clergy and ACNA bishops.


References   [ + ]

1. Currently one of the AMiA’s “College of Consultors.”

Could Rwanda See More State Led Violence?

Executed by M23
Executed by M23

There is a new and informative article about the possibility of mass killings in Rwanda’s future. It is called “Rwanda: could state-led mass killings ever happen again?”, written by  Bert Ingelaere and Marijke Verpoorten and located here. It is a bit biased towards the Kagame dictatorship 1)i.e. “a strong and appealing vision focused on the reconstruction of the country.” but still comes to some alarming conclusions.

Their thesis is:

We will argue that the international community – heavily involved in contemporary Rwanda – is currently confusing the consequences and origins of mass violence. This could result in renewed mass violence and consequently there needs to be a drastic change of policy.

The authors point out how democrats in Rwanda have been eliminated by the State:

The top-down implementation of economic policies points to the Achilles’ heel of the post-genocide reconstruction: the authoritarian character of the current regime. State control, a key ingredient of the genocidal efficiency in 1994, remains strong. The working of (state) power within Rwandan society also portrays remarkable continuity with the pre-genocide era with a deep penetration of authority in Rwandan society and chains of accountability which mainly go upwards, not downwards as in democratic political systems.

They point out the obvious, that dissent is not allowed in Rwanda:

There is, furthermore, little space or tolerance for expressing discontent or alternative projects for society. Such a project lies with the ‘democrats’, a political current that emerged in the beginning of the nineties. The ‘democrats’ were however gradually side-lined, exiled or killed after the RPF took over power in 1994, just like political opponents today.  As a result, countervailing civic powers, a culture of multi-ethnic political dialogue and strong independent institutions – which could function as barriers to violence in times of crisis – remain absent.

They discuss how a small spark could lead to another disaster in Rwanda:

In the Rwandan case: a minority is in power that wants to defend its existential security as well as its visionary project, of which the main features were highlighted above; and Rwandan politics and mentalities are influenced by layers of historical episodes of mass violence. One only needs a spark to initiate a political crisis, even a war. As history has shown in the Rwandan case, and as comparative research on genocide and politically motivated mass murder suggests; it is under these circumstances that mass violence against civilians become thinkable, justifiable and executable. Recent attempts to forecast state-led mass killings continue to situate Rwanda in the risk zone.

Based on this overview of the drivers of mass violence in Rwanda, it becomes clear that policy-makers within and outside of contemporary Rwanda tend to confuse the consequences of past violence with its origins. The current regime – heavily supported by the donor community – primarily focuses on policy initiatives that seek the unity of Rwandans as well as economic reconstruction and development of the country. Most visible in the first domain is the attempt to ‘re-educate’ the population and ‘erase’ ethnic awareness. This happens through a plethora of initiatives, ranging from history education in schools to the organization of so-called ‘solidarity’ camps for all Rwandan adults. The autocratic nature of these undertakings justifies and entrenches RPF rule while not initiating values of mutual understanding or a culture of multi-ethnic political dialogue.

Perhaps the most chilling, but also accurate, statement that they make, is:

Since the primary driver of mass violence lies in the political domain, it means that the aid industry and international community will need to radically reconsider its involvement in Rwanda. Waiting to intervene until mass violence erupts is a dangerous bet.

This is the point that I have been making for a couple years now in the Anglican context, see here for example. Roger Bowen, who served in Rwanda prior to the genocide, castigated the silence of Western mission partners prior to 1994:

Partnership in mission is the dominant theme in Anglican relationships. But one may ask in the context of Rwanda, as perhaps elsewhere in Africa, whether the mission agencies at least have so leaned over backwards to avoid the charge of colonialism that they have failed to challenge their partner Churches? Within both Rwanda and the Rwandan Church, we were aware of many of these issues and yet, as their partners, we largely failed to challenge them as equal partners and to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). In Ezekiel 33 the prophet is challenged to be a watchman for the House of Israel to warn the people of God of impending danger. Both the national Church of Rwanda and its partners overseas have largely failed in this role of watchmen.

Bowen’s concerns are being replayed by the silence of GAFCON and PEAR USA to the evil in Rwanda today.

The authors go on to make some solid recommendations for how things could change peacefully. The unfortunate downside to their recommendations is that these wishes for change probably have zero chance of implementation in the current oppressive environment.

References   [ + ]

1. i.e. “a strong and appealing vision focused on the reconstruction of the country.”

New Reports of Rwanda “Disappearing” Its Citizens

Just in from Human Rights Watch, Rwanda is kidnapping more of its own citizens, presumably to torture and/or imprison them, if not worse. Please read the report. Some eyewitness testimony:

It was between 8:30 and 9 a.m. [and she was] dressed in her work clothes. She got a call from a girl she had studied with in Congo. I could hear the conversation. The caller said that Anne-Marie had to go outside. There was a vehicle parked there [and] two people were on the road. The men were in civilian clothes. The vehicle was a white pickup truck with tinted windows … As she was walking toward the truck, she was talking on the phone … One of the men said to her, ‘Is it you [the caller] is looking for? She is in the vehicle, you can find her there.’ As she got near the vehicle, the two men pushed her inside. They were walking behind her as she walked toward it and forced her inside. Then they sped off.

And in another case:

Elie thought it had something to do with the neighborhood, so he got up and put on a jacket … [Another person] went outside and saw the soldiers walking Elie out of the compound. She then saw him try to resist and they [the soldiers] pushed him. She yelled, ‘[Semajeri] is being arrested!’ [Others] ran outside and threw stones at neighbors’ houses to tell everyone what was happening and to tell people to come outside…

I saw Honoré, the executive secretary, with the soldiers. The soldiers had their guns out and were pointing them up and down the street. Elie was being put into a vehicle and he yelled, ‘Look! They are arresting me! They are taking me and I will die!’ He was also crying. He yelled, ‘All the neighbors must see this!’ At this moment, they forced him into a vehicle. It was a white pickup truck.

Let me again remind GAFCON signatories of what they said in Nairobi: 1)Nairobi Communique

We repudiate all such violence against women and children and call on the church to demonstrate respect for women, care for marginalized women and children around the world, and uphold the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

We are conscious of the growing number of attacks on Christians in Nigeria and Pakistan, Syria and Egypt, Sudan and many other countries. Where our brothers and sisters are experiencing persecution, we must all call on governments and leaders of other religions to respect human rights, protect Christians from violent attack and take effective action to provide for freedom of religious expression for all.

The Rwandan delegation to GAFCON included Archbishop Rwaje, Bishop Breedlove and Rev. Rutayisire. Will they ask the Rwandan government what is going on?

Missing Rwandans
Missing Rwandans

References   [ + ]

More of Radner on Rwanda

Ephraim Radner’s article in First Things is not the first time he has looked at Rwandan Anglicans. Writing for the Anglican Communion Institute in 2009 Radner did an excellent job of laying out the background of conflicts in the DRC and Rwandan problems. He turned to Anglican related issues and said:

The current and often antagonistic disagreements among Anglican churches within the world-wide Anglican Communion has added another layer of confusion into this already difficult field of witness.  Concerns about the character of our various churches’ attachments to players in the eastern Congo tragedy are generally suppressed through a desire to maintain ecclesial alliances;  or, conversely, when such concerns are raised, they are dismissed and assigned to the motives of ecclesial politics.  But we must not fool ourselves:  the demise of truly catholic order and responsibility in something like the Anglican Communion mirrors the failures of global accountability in the secular world. […]

Let me re-emphasize this sentence:  Concerns about the character of our various churches’ attachments to players in the eastern Congo tragedy are generally suppressed through a desire to maintain ecclesial alliances;  or, conversely, when such concerns are raised, they are dismissed and assigned to the motives of ecclesial politics. This, in a nutshell, is what PEAR USA is doing, suppressing critical thinking due to ecclesial alliances which allow American bishops and clergy to carry on with whatever Reformation they think they are enacting here in the States, all the while ignoring evil. Radner says:

If Christian churches, like those of the Anglican Communion, cannot get beyond the politics of their own conflicted life, what is left is a church, just like the civil societies in which she moves, that is picked apart, manipulated, ordered by competing personal interests, and drawn ever more deeply into to the pit of complicity with evil. We have seen this happen.

Perhaps – indeed, surely, as the Psalmist writes – one must eventually fall into the pit one digs for another (cf. Ps. 7:15; cf. Prov. 26:27). But in the meantime, others have fallen in as well – too many others; millions of others. The Gospel promises us, through the prophet, a leveling out of the land – a filling in of rough places and of the pits themselves (Is. 40:4; Lk. 3:5), so that, at least, what the evil man contemplates cannot catch another on his or her way. The tentative pause in the eastern Congo’s holocaust can be extended, surely, through the corporate and cooperative determinations of participants. But the Christian churches must get involved in this as well. And to do that, they will need to extricate themselves from the expectations of and collaborations with governments that have already proven they cannot be trusted, and can only be pressured into acts of ostensive justice at best. Writing as an Anglican, this will require a conversion on the part of all of us that goes far beyond the local ecclesial feuds that have ruined our ability to hear the voice of the Lord calling us into His light.

Given what we have seen to date, PEAR USA and GAFCON more broadly will not confront evil until it is much too late. The lesson learned from Thad Barnum’s book “Never Silent” is not applied to contemporary circumstances.


Bishop Mbanda on Rwanda’s “Good Leadership”

Bishop Mbanda and Kagame
Bishop Mbanda and Kagame

Speaking at a memorial to mark 20 years since the genocide engulfed Rwanda, Bishop Laurent Mbanda (joined by Bishop John Rucyahana), said this about modern Rwanda:

You should be happy that you live in times like these when Rwanda has good leadership. The current government stopped Genocide, brought peace and national unity—the kind of change this country needed. You have done very well to come and learn…Therefore be agents of change,

So a sitting Anglican Bishop says that a serial murderer who heads up a quasi dictatorship equates to “good leadership.” If you are part of a PEAR USA church in any capacity, your leadership is officially aligned with a dictator who started two wars, tortures his own people and kills opponents to crush dissent. I am not going to elaborate on all the details because I have done it so many times and the information is all out there in public. If you don’t believe it, ask me and I can point you to it. For Bishop Mbanda to praise this madman and for PEAR USA to sit silently by, is for the witness of the Church to suffer.

Bishop Mbanda was speaking to alumni and current students of Sonrise school, a donor darling of Western churches. “Originally built for orphans…Sonrise now caters to children of many wealthy Rwandans.” 1)Source. Sonrise is presented to the Anglican church in America as being for impoverished orphans when it is among the most expensive in Rwanda. More on Sonrise later.



References   [ + ]

1. Source.