Presbyterian Ministry for Reconciliation - December 2015 Update
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God. Matthew 5:9
Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
Dear family and friends,
A team from The Outreach Foundation visited the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda last October. Many of you followed our journey from the trip blog on Outreach’s website. One of the ministries that we visited was the Presbyterian Ministry for Reconciliation and Healing led by Rev. Jerome Bizimana, who recently visited our office in Franklin, Tennessee as well as many Presbyterian congregations in the U.S. as part of the International Peacemakers program. We learned so much from our brothers and sisters in Rwanda about forgiveness.
Throughout the Bible, God calls his people to reconcile and to be ambassadors (with Christ) of reconciling humanity with him. Pastor Jerome will tell you it is not an easy job, but it is worth the effort. It takes courage to ask for forgiveness, and it takes wisdom to fully embrace the word of God as well as the understanding of its required discipline to forgive.
The Outreach Foundation began raising funds for this ministry several years ago to help the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda deal with tensions from the 1994 genocide perpetrated against those of Tutsi ethnic background. It is difficult to preach the gospel of love with both victims and perpetrators seating in the same pews. Pastor Jerome will tell you that it was not and is still not easy to bring up the subject of reconciliation to everyone. Yet he will also tell you that there is no other way to preach the gospel. He will also tell you that conflict is inevitable for humans, but violence is a choice.
When Pastor Jerome returned to Rwanda in 2009 from training on peace-building and conflict resolution at Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Kitwe, Zambia, he was determined not to keep quiet but to use every tool he learned from the training. He conducted multiple workshops and seminars for several groups (church leaders, secondary school students, university students, and survivors of the 1994 genocide). He also gathered genocide perpetrators, who in 2008-9 were being released from prison. From all of the workshop and seminar attendees, an initial group of 15 people was formed to strengthen their witness and continue the journey together. That group grew to be two groups – the Peacemakers Group and the Light Group. The groups continue to grow and give witness both in word and deeds.
During our visit, it was so powerful to hear the testimonies and observe genocide survivors and genocide perpetrators living in harmony. But it was shocking to hear a man identify himself as a perpetrator and point to someone whose family members he killed. This made it even more compelling to hear survivors recall their long journey toward forgiving the killers. They shared that it was not easy and that the many years they spent in deep anger were devastating.
Grieving the loss of loved ones has been a long process for many. Pastor Jerome’s message about reconciliation and forgiveness is a powerful medicine that allows Christians from his presbytery to move forward. Genocide perpetrators explained that prisoners were encouraged to ask for forgiveness as a condition of their release. We heard them saying how ashamed they felt when they returned home from prison. People they encountered on the road would turn their faces or run away.
The reconciliation ministry led by Pastor Jerome is being used by God as a miracle of his grace to restore life and harmony to the people of Rwanda. Pastor Jerome feels that he did not have the strength for this work – he simply obeyed God. He witnessed the hand of God working in both groups. He requests prayers for both the Peacemakers and Light Groups to grow and expand their reach beyond just the Presbytery of Remera. They plan to reach out to different high schools in Kamonyi District first. The targeted schools are Groupe Scolaire Isonga-Runda, Bubazi, Nyarusave-Mwirute, and Nyarubuye. They also plan to reach out to congregations around Remera like Mwirute, Karangara and others.
We are so grateful to you all for your contributions to this ministry.
May God bless you,
Amount needed in 2016
The Outreach Foundation seeks to raise a minimum of $1,250 per month for training for peace-building, reconciliation, and healing. To make a donation, click the Donate Now link in the sidebar.
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