Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. — Matthew 5:9
Just over 20 years ago, in a 100-day period, the genocide in Rwanda resulted in the deaths of almost 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus, just about 20 percent of the country’s total population.
Last November, I visited a former Catholic church, now a memorial, an hour outside of Kigali in the village of Nyamata. On April 10, 1994, about 10,000 people were killed in and around this church. People had gathered in the church and padlocked themselves inside. The Hutu militia broke down the doors and massacred the people in the church and in the surrounding villages with their rifles, grenades and machetes.
The remains of 250,000 people are buried on the grounds of the former church. And the clothing of the victims is stacked high in the sanctuary. In an underground vault, thousands of skulls are displayed as a memorial to those who have died.
While I was in Kigali with other Mennonite Central Committee folks, I met David Bucara, leader of the Evangelical Friends churches in Rwanda. David said that there was no life and no hope after the genocide 20 years ago, and he said it was a genocide the churches had participated in. He told us that when the churches decided they wanted to resurrect their peace identity, it was MCC who was there to help.
Now, David says, there is an entire network of peace organizations in Rwanda and he can see the impact of MCC’s support. “You are blessed, and you are children of God,” David told the MCC Africa country representatives who gathered in Kigali to hear him speak.
The following Sunday morning, we worshipped in an Evangelical Friends church where David was preaching. He preached from the beatitudes in Matthew 5. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he told the congregation.
“Peacemaking is not a job, it is a calling,” David preached to the congregation.
After the service, the pastor introduced a new program for adopting orphans in the community. He referenced the genocide Rwanda had experienced 20 years ago and he said that one of the consequences is that the surrounding communities still have more orphans than would normally be the case. “We have decided to open our doors to these children,” the pastor announced. He asked the congregation if they were ready to receive these children.
MCC continues to support the Evangelical Friends churches through a Friends Peace House and a peace library that reaches out into the Christian and Muslim communities.
J Ron Byler is executive director of Mennonite Central Committee U.S. He blogs at Thinking Out Loud, where this first appeared.