From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 08:11:00


                        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.] 
     "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   Web page: 


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