From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
AMBASSADOR TO RWANDA SAYS RELIEF NEEDS PERSIST
05 May 1996 08:11:00
95072 AMBASSADOR TO RWANDA SAYS RELIEF NEEDS PERSIST
by Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Devastated by genocide, Rwanda now faces basic moral
questions as it tries to recover, the U.S. ambassador to the central
African nation told a gathering of evangelical Christians here March 5.
In a speech to about 375 members of the National Association of
Evangelicals, Ambassador David Rawson urged that relief efforts by the
United States and private agencies continue as Rwanda struggles in the
aftermath of a murderous civil war last year.
[Presbyterians have contributed about $1.2 million to relief efforts
"In Rwanda, we saw a complete collapse of social order," Rawson said.
"All that was customary became alien. Brothers literally rose against
brothers and fathers against their children."
More than 500,000 people died in massacres between April and July last
year, and an estimated two million Rwandans are in refugee camps in
Burundi, Tanzania and Zaire. The U.S. government spent $183 million in the
last fiscal year to assist in the crisis.
Rawson, who lived in Burundi from 1947 to 1958 with his medical
missionary father, often sounded as much like a preacher as an ambassador
before the evangelical audience.
Noting that the number of "complex emergencies" handled by the United
States such as the one in Rwanda increased more than sixfold to 26 in the
past decade, Rawson cited Jesus' prediction of "wars and rumors of war."
"... [To] Christians this trend should come as no surprise," he said.
A "profound uprooting of spiritual values" has been the base of
Rwanda's problems, Rawson also said. "In the time of trial, many [church
leaders] turned away from their faith," he said.
Some church leaders may have collaborated with the military and
identified victims for slaughter, while others were reported to have been
killed themselves when they would not cooperate.
Referring to Rwandans who lost relatives in the massacres and others
who showed no remorse for their part in the killings, Rawson said, "How do
you achieve reconciliation when there is on one side no repentance and on
the other no forgiveness?"
Despite such divisions, churches are crowded with Rwandans searching
for answers, Rawson said. And at both the grassroots and the organizational
levels, there have been attempts at reconciliation.
"Rwandans themselves believe that the church will have a really
catalytic role in bringing people together," he said.
The ambassador spoke of carrying a child named Joseph during a visit
to a Rwandan orphanage, run by World Relief, the international assistance
arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.
"I thought to myself, Little Joseph, I can buy you some clothes, I can
give you some food ... but how could I possibly fill the void of a child
who has seen his parents massacred?"
Still, he urged the evangelical audience to bear in mind Jesus' lesson
to help "the least of these." Efforts to help rebuild the Rwandan
government must continue, he said.
"I think it's part of our mission as American people to care about
others," said Rawson. "The temptation ... is to say, Look, we tried. We
failed. Let's get out of there.'"
But, he added, "No, there's something to be done. There are people
who need help."
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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