Pastor Antoine Rutayisire of Remera Anglican church in Kigali has explained why unity and reconciliation is an imperative for Rwandans, more than it might be for US citizens.
During the Monthly National Prayer Breakfast on Saturday, the pastor who is known for speaking his mind with vital testimonies and speeches that call for unity and reconciliation among Rwandans, explained a scenario where an American citizen raised a concern against Rwanda’s policy of unity and reconciliation.
“We were in a conference and during break time, a woman took me aside and told me; why are you forcing genocide survivors to reconcile with people who killed their relatives? You should allow them to have their emotions, be angry and so on…,” Pst Rutayisire recalls.
The answer Pastor Rutayisire gave to that lady was that “they are not forced to reconcile but they are encouraged to, much as it is the only option (reconciliation) the country had in the wake of the Genocide against Tutsi.”
“I told her: Look! In US when you are sick you call an ambulance, but in Rwanda, when you are sick, you call a neighbor,” he said to explain the crucial need for Rwandans to reconcile.
The need to reconcile comes with an understanding of the Proverb “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
This can be explained through the scripture of the Day, where Rutayisire shared a story of Towel of Babel in Genesis 11:1- 6.
According to this biblical passage, people from across the world came together in unity and agreed to build a towel in Babel. In the middle of the project implementation, God confused them into several languages after realizing that if they had achieved that in unity, in the future they could agree to achieve even much greater things and succeed.
Pastor Rutayisire narrated the story of Rwanda in two eras whereby, under both first and second republics, “we were regularly reminded that we are divided.”
One example Rutayisire kept in mind was a case that happened in his class at Primary school.
“The teacher asked Hutus to stand up, and they did. Then came the Tutsis. When they called Twas to stand up, only one girl showed up,” he recalls.
“Then the teacher asked if anyone would afford to eat from the same plate with the girl and all of us said; NOOOO! The girl never came back to school.”
Same case of segregation happened to Rutayisire while he was at university as a young lecturer. He was awarded a PhD scholarship to a university from the United States of America, but, the Ministry of Education quickly sent him to teach at a remote lower secondary school, just to signal that he did not merit.
“When asked the ministry of education why they took such a bizarre and discouraging decision, a director who had my file said; man, your time has finished, go and chill.”
A compilation of such segregation messages turned Antoine Rutayisire into a bitter lecturer who was like dry bones.
“In class, I was a super lecturer, but outside, my life was full of questions, wondering about my future, I was bitter.”
Despite being a famous pastor today, Rutayisire confesses that it took very much time for him to recover and learn to forgive the Hutu who used to persecute him, like all the Tutsi in the country in general and elite community in particular.
“Once saved, Jesus told me that I should look at the cross, but I told him that I cannot repeat a statement he said on the cross ‘forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.”
In fact, after accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour of his life, Rutayisire quickly became a preacher, but he was a bad preacher until Jesus healed him completely.
“I remember once saying: I am going to preach these Hutus, send them to heaven but, NOT to my heart,” he said.
The Reverand Pastor, Rutayisire now believes that, “despite having lived an unhappy young man and a bitter young adult, I will die a happy old man.”
He owes this statement to the greater achievements of reconciliation in Rwanda, 25 years ago, where injustice, segregation was buried and paved a way to the love of the neighbor.