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Twenty Years After Genocide, Church Helps Rwanda Heal

Albert Gonzalez Farran/UNAMID

Catholic News Agency - published on 04/09/14

Such programs bring together perpetrators and victims, encouraging cooperation, communication and solidarity, and further working to heal wounds and bring about reconciliation.

“CRS is a child of the Church,” said Fr. Celestin Hakizimana, general secretary of the Rwandan bishops’ conference. “In some ways, CRS is here as a sister Church to represent the Church in America.”

Fr. Hakizimana described the current relationship between Church and State in Rwanda as generally good. Efforts are ongoing to repair relationships that were damaged during the genocide, and the Church is dealing with modern challenges, including a recent law to legalize abortion, which the bishops vocally opposed.

Although obstacles do exist, the Church in Rwanda is strong, Fr. Hakizimana said. With the help of Catholic Relief Services, the national bishops’ conference has improved its structure and organization, and many dioceses are working with the international agency to strengthen their efficiency, professionalism and financial management capabilities.

In addition, Fr. Hakizimana explained that he knows the Church is growing “because every Sunday, there are baptisms.”

As of October 2013, the seminaries in the small country were filled to capacity, with 530 men studying in major seminaries. Church leaders have been forced to limit the number of applicants while one facility is being expanded. As Rwanda works to rebuild, the local Church grows as well.

Looking to the Future

Two decades after being ravaged by unimaginable violence, the small African country now looks to the future with hope. While wounds from the past remain, the people have taken important steps toward healing

“Forgiveness is a process,” stressed Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege of Kabgayi.

Reconciliation is not as simple as merely asking for forgiveness and receiving it immediately, he explained, adding that it would be unrealistic to expect all the nation’s wounds to be healed in 20 years.

“The people have scars on their hearts,” he said. “To rebuild a person who has been destroyed is not as easy as rebuilding a house that has been destroyed.”

Courtesy of Catholic News Agency

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