Monday, 5 May 2008

Le pardon impossible? Impossible forgiveness

Nathalie Leenhardt has written a piece for Réforme on the difficult path to forgiveness and reconciliation in Rwanda. The article is called Victimes et boureaux - victims and torturers or oppressors. She reports how Christians find it just as difficult as others to forgive the enormity of what has happened. Yet worshipers at the Presbyterian church she visited were encouraged to pray not only for victims of the genocide but also for forgiveness those who committed the crimes, even for those who remain indifferent to what they have done.
This weekend at the ERF synod in Toulouse pastor Elisée Musemakweli, president of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda, gave a powerful address citing how the tragedy was forcing the Church to bear witness to the Gospel in new ways. The trauma that comes out in the national week of mourning early in April is difficult to cope with for everyone; facing up to the terrible rape and violence that many women have experienced stretches even those who are most able at pastoral care; households headed by traumatised children also challenge the church to find a new way of relating to families and their needs.
I was particularly struck by Musemakweli's insistence that he and his delegation had come to both listen and to share their own experience as a minority church. Taking home ideas from a tiny national church here but also sharing ideas and challenges from the Rwandan and African context.
"alors qu’en Occident l’Eglise est devenue presque une parenthèse inutile à cause d’une sécularisation offensive, au Rwanda, une bonne partie d’intellectuels n’ont plus confiance en l’enseignement de l’Eglise à cause de son implication dans le génocide."
While in the west the church has become an almost useless parenthesis due to overt secularisation, in Rwanda large numbers of intellectuals no longer trust the teaching of the church because of its implication in the genocide.

Not sure I want to think of myself as being part of a useless parenthesis, but it is always sobering to hear an outside opinion of one's own institutions. However, the call to stand up for what is right, to say a word that can be trusted, is quite possibly the only way forwards for bearing witness to the gospel of Christ. For how many centuries still will the collusion of the churches in Rwanda be remembered - for as long as we remember Christians killing each other in religious civil wars in Europe, for as long as we remember Christians justifying Apartheid, for longer? While we obsess over correct doctrine and saying the right words - we forget so easily that our actions speak louder than our words and often for centuries longer.