Magazine article Anglican Journal

Rwandan Calls for Spiritual Healing: Prisoners Confess after Visit from Lay Leader

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Rwandan Calls for Spiritual Healing: Prisoners Confess after Visit from Lay Leader

Article excerpt

"I want to confess before God and all of you the sins I committed when I was still in darkness. A time like this gives me the opportunity to offload all the burden of guilt I had on my heart and I'm even prepared to confess before the judges because the Lord has emboldened me by his forgiveness. I took part in the killings in my neighbourhood. I looted, and I participated in the destruction that happened during 1994. But now the Lord has changed my life and I want to tell everybody I'm now a different person ..."

Antoine Rutayisire heard these words as he led a day of prayer and fasting with prisoners inside Kigali Central Prison in Rwanda. Mr. Rutayisire (pronounced Root-ah-yee-see-reh) is an Anglican lay evangelist working with African Enterprise in a ministry of healing and reconciliation.

He told of his experiences in an interview in Toronto in November, during his national speaking tour with African Enterprise Canada.

Just two weeks after his ministry in prison, over 1,000 inmates confessed to their crimes when the chief prosecutor of Kigali City visited them. In the five years before, only 10 had come forward, Mr. Rutayisire said.

In the spring of 1994 Rwanda experienced a genocide by the Hutu majority against its minority Tutsi population. An estimated 800,000 Rwandans, mainly Tutsis, died in primarily machete attacks. Even newborns were not spared. Another 200,000 died in refugee camps in the Congo, often from exhaustion or cholera. UN peacekeepers withdrew at the height of the genocide.

Is healing possible in a land where almost a million people were massacred in a hundred days?

After such a hell on earth, there has been something of a small spiritual spring. African Enterprise has worked with 4,500 widows and 20,000 orphans, tracing the families of orphans and providing foster care for others. They have also offered counselling seminars on reconciliation.

"Spiritual healing is Rwanda's greatest need," Mr. Rutayisire said. It was a need the Tutsi had to grapple with in his own life.

As a five-year-old, he had witnessed the murder of his father by Hutus. He survived an outbreak of violence against Tutsi students in elementary school and was almost killed during his university studies. He lost a hard-earned university lectureship due to discrimination against him as a Tutsi.

"I was very angry because there was a long list of people I hated with cause. But it was during this time in 1983 that I met the Lord," he said. He pleaded with God; "Do I really have to forgive the people who killed my father? …

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