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Adventists in Rwanda: Hutus and Tutsis Forgive

Kigali, Rwanda ... [ANN] Concerned at the continuing hostility and violence that still haunts Rwanda in the wake of the 1994 killings, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is sponsoring a major series of &q
uot;reconciliation conferences" to tackle the vital areas of concern.

Leading out in the four-day conference March 4-7 were Pastor Esdras Mpyisi, once advisor to the former king of Rwanda and long-time church leader, together with Luka Daniel, president of the Adventist Church’s Africa-Indian Ocean Division.

During the meetings, Hutus and Tutsis faced each other, recognized their guilt and the need for reconciliation, especially as members of a Christian Church.

"For the first time the warring factions made some admissions," says Daniel. "Previously the authenticity of the problem would be glossed over. At this meeting, wrongs were admitted by both groups."

The conference struggled with a number of vital issues.

"One of the primary questions was how those who had killed would confess, and how those who lost relatives would forgive," says Daniel. "With each party waiting for the other to take the initiative, the conference helped to encourage indivi
duals to compete on who takes the first step."

Issues discussed included the true meaning of reconciliation, how leaders should relate to one another, and the implications for local Christians, reports Jacques Nkinzingabo, communication director for the Adventist Church in Rwanda.

"The exchanges of views from all work-groups demonstrated that reconciliation has its basis in the individual’s own personal experience of God," says Nkinzingabo.

The discussion was realistic, comments Daniel, "at times very frank, and warm." Participants recognized that though progress had been made since a previous conference, much still needed to be done. The conclusion was a determination to work toge
ther as Christians, following the theme of the conference, "To Be One in Christ."

Much media attention focuses on the current situation in Rwanda. Even as recently as March 12, the Lutheran World Federation reported that three staff members and five refugees were killed at a Tutsi resettlement compound by cross-border insurgents from T

In an interview given to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) at Silver Spring, Maryland on March 18, Adventist Church worker, David Peters, spoke of his recent experience in Rwanda.

"The need for reconciliation is great," said Peters. "Without mutual trust and forgiveness, the killings could happen again as they could anywhere in the world where hatred and intolerance exist."

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Rwanda numbers 313,000 baptized believers, or 1 in 27 of the total population. [Jonathan Gallagher]