1994. In the United States that year, 3,952,767 babies of the Millennial generation were born. Halfway across the world in Rwanda, between April and
July of that same year, more than 800,000 people were killed and over 2 million others fled their own country as the result of a devastating genocide in which the Hutu majority turned murderously violent against the Tutsi minority. In addition, sexual violence against women was employed as a genocidal tactic. An estimated 354,000 women and girls were raped. Christian leaders and their congregants participated in the atrocities.
Ten years later, in July 2004, a group of forty-seven Christian leaders from some of the most conflict-ridden countries in the world convened in Kigali, Rwanda to create a theological vision for reconciliation. After a year of intense discussions and revisions, they unanimously endorsed a document entitled Reconciliation as the Mission of God: Christian Witness in a World of Destructive Conflicts, in which reconciliation is defined as:
“God’s initiative, restoring a broken world to His intentions by reconciling ‘to himself all things’ through Christ: the relationship between people and God, between people themselves, and with God’s created earth. Christians participate with God by being transformed into ambassadors of reconciliation.”
Rwandans have made incredible strides in rebuilding and developing their country in the aftermath of genocide, but many challenges remain. Currently, 39.1% of Rwandans live below the poverty line, and women make up the majority of this population. In addition, approximately 7,000 children in the city of Kigali alone live on the streets. Africa New Life Ministries, founded and run by Rwandans, 1) provides vocational training for vulnerable women, which helps them develop marketable skills and the know-how to start independent businesses, 2) offers holistic support for vulnerable children, including a feeding program, a child sponsorship program, and a Christian school, and 4) provides much-needed theological education for pastors and other spiritual leaders.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of recovery in Rwanda is the reconciliation work that Rwandans have done collectively at the national level in the wake of neighbor committing unspeakable crimes against neighbor. As black women born and raised in the U.S., many of us descendants of Africans who were involuntarily enslaved and brought to the Americas, we believe we have much to learn from Rwandan women about how to pursue that kind of restoration and reconciliation, since we still grapple with ripple effects from our own painful history: disproportionate poverty, state violence, sexual violence, marginalization, and trauma.
So eleven of us are planning a trip to Kigali, Rwanda this summer, from July 14-24, to engage in a learning exchange with Rwandan women through African New Life. We’re calling the initiative “Woman to Woman Rwanda.” Our team will facilitate entrepreneurial workshops with women in the ministry’s vocational training programs, experience the Kigali Genocide Memorial, share mentoring sessions with high-school girls, and participate in learning sessions on reconciliation and healing. Our hope is twofold: 1) to bless, empower, and encourage the Rwandan women, and 2) to apply what we learn from them to the challenging work of gospel-based racial reconciliation in our own communities here.
How You Can Support Us
We need your help! We have until June 30 to raise the necessary funds for all eleven of us to go. A few of us are fully funded, but we still need to raise an additional $20,000 in the next 28 days. Please consider donating a gift of $10, $20, $50, or more. Because this trip is a true exchange, each dollar you contribute will support both communities in Rwanda and the communities we serve when we return home. The donation link is https://www.purecharity.com/woman-to-woman-in-rwanda-trip-fund. Feel free to share our campaign with your network using the hashtag #W2WRwanda. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
The Woman to Woman Team