First Lady leads U.S national prayer, shares Rwanda’s journey of rebirth

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First Lady Jeannette Kagame delivered the keynote remarks during the National Prayer Breakfast Leadership Luncheon, which was held on the sidelines of the National Prayer Breakfast. / Courtesy

First Lady Jeannette Kagame on Thursday led a prayer at the United States National Prayer Breakfast held in Washington D.C., which was among others attended by U.S President Donald Trump.

The First Lady’s prayer was drawn from the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi calling all to "Bring love where there is hatred. Bring pardon where there is offence. Bring truth where there is error. Bring hope where there is despair".

During his speech, Trump commended Mrs Kagame for attending and leading the prayer, before saying that; “As long as we open our eyes to God’s Grace - and open our hearts to God’s love - then America will forever be the land of the free, the home of the brave, and a light unto all nations.”

The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual interfaith event bringing together thousands of leaders from over 100 countries. Rwanda also holds one similar event annually bringing together leaders from public and private sector, friends of the country, to pray for the country and give thanks for the past year.

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Hundreds gathered for the event which was held in Washington D.C. / Courtesy

Speaking at the subsequent National Prayer Breakfast Leadership Luncheon, Mrs Kagame took time to reflect on Rwanda’s journey since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, that claimed over a million lives in a hundred days, left a shattered economy, thousands of orphans and widows among others, and the lessons they hold for the country.

“The National Prayer Breakfast is a wonderful opportunity to reflect and share on the journeys that we have travelled, and lessons they hold for us,” First Lady said.

2018 must-visit

“But let me tell you a little bit, about some of the steps we had to take, from Genocide and failed state in 1994, to a “2018 must-visit” destination according to travel experts. One of the most important lessons we learned in Rwanda, is that after the guns fall silent, the real battle begins. And this was the struggle; to reconcile Rwandans – victims and perpetrators, rebuild a devastated social fabric, and restore shattered trust,” Mrs Kagame added.

On this journey, the First Lady said, Rwanda had to build everything from scratch with the guiding principle of national unity embracing openness to build unified nation.

“I can assure you, there was no instruction manual for this new process, and going back was not an option. So, armed with faith, and a clear goal, Rwandans got to work. The rebuilding of our nation did not happen overnight, as you can imagine, and it continues to this day.

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First Lady Jeannette Kagame is joined by co-host of the Leadership Luncheon, Mrs Grace Nelson. / Courtesy

In the wake of this calamity, we had to go beyond the human equation and from the good, the bad and the ugly, sift out a reconciled society guided by the better angels of our nature,” she added.

To do so, Mrs Kagame says, Rwanda had to reopen old wounds, open up to one another on a human level, but most importantly, open up to the possibility of “living as one people in one nation.”

She observed that post-Genocide leaders appreciated everyone’s contribution and most especially women, which she thinks played a key role, in restoring the shattered country and Rwanda’s continued transformation journey.

“Throughout this journey, the resilient women of Rwanda have, in many ways, held up the sky. Thrown into unfamiliar roles, in a world turned upside-down, they have worked hard alongside their brothers, fathers, and sons to pick up the pieces, and fashion a resilient nation, where everyone, no matter their background or history, has a place,” she added.

Mrs Kagame also observed the support from “friends of Rwanda” was instrumental in contributing to the current state of Rwanda.

“Sounds of construction, busy markets, children playing on school grounds and neighbourhood streets, new restaurants, evenings of poetry and music, things that were only a distant dream twenty years ago, are now part of the Rwandan landscape.”

She concluded by noting, that Rwandans do not take the progress achieve for granted, and took time to thank those that have walked with the people of Rwanda through her transformation journey.