Late last week, Bethesda Holy Church, a Kigali-based church launched a new ministry aimed at assisting people in resolving conflicts faced in their marriages and families. According to its founders, the ministry is not only intended to reach out to the church’s congregants but everyone who is faced with such challenges, in a bid to ensure that family instabilities increasingly get resolved through amicable and reconciliatory ways. Reverend Jeanne d’Arc Rugamba, a Cleric from Bethesda Holy Church and head of the new initiative, told the media in an interview that it is possible for churches to establish measures for conflict resolution, not only for marriages and families, but for other issues as well. “The churches have the capacity to look into more problems affecting people, besides family conflicts. It is possible to give advice to the people, to assist them to find sustainable solutions,” she said. According to the new “Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy” by the Ministry of Justice, Rwanda is counting not only on judicial officials but also other actors like non-governmental organisations and religious entities to increase the use of mediation and conciliatory measures, so as to reduce the number of conflicts that end up in court. This is aimed at reducing case backlog in courts and fostering good relationships among people. “When people go to court, there is always a winner and a loser. At the end of the court process, the relationship between the litigants is often broken, and there is shame on the losing party. However, when issues are handled through alternative justice, there is no loser since both parties get a solution. Their relationship is also protected and they can continue to work together,” Anastase Nabahire, the Director General for Justice Sector Coordination at the Ministry of Justice, told The New Times in an earlier interview. Besides putting in place efforts to train many professional mediators and conciliators, the ministry expects to give training to religious organisations, non-governmental organisations, cooperatives and so on, to empower them to solve conflicts in society. On a special note, faith-based organisations are looked at as entities that are really capable of resolving conflicts, since their teachings are said to always ‘touch the hearts of people.’ Aline Umutoni, the Director General of Family Promotion and Child Protection at the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, for example, says that faith-based organisations have a great role in solving family conflicts because their teachings have the power to impact people’s perceptions. Speaking in an exclusive interview with The New Times, Sheikh Suleiman Mbarushimana, Advisor to the Mufti, also recognised this fact. “Many problems can be solved if religions put in place measures for conflict resolution. Solutions provided within such a context can always be good for people, especially believers because they are based on the beliefs of their religion. This can foster fairness, but also forgiveness,” he noted. Mbarushimana also added that such measures can reduce the number of cases that go to the courts of the law, since only hard and complex cases will only proceed to court in that case. He noted that there is a need for more knowledge and skills to enable religious leaders to do a good job in mediation and conciliation. Thus he welcomed the government’s proposal to give them some training. Backlog in courts According to figures from the Judiciary, the number of pending cases has increased by 50 per cent in the last three years, from 52,952 cases in 2019/20 to 79,468 cases in 2021/22 except for the Supreme Court and Commercial High Court that recorded a decrease. With regards to case backlog, statistics from the judiciary indicate that they stand at 59 per cent representing 47,091. Cases exceeding six months are considered as backlog. In the just-concluded judicial year 2021/22, there were 102,542 cases that went to the judiciary. Among those, criminal cases are dominant representing 71 per cent of total cases filed in courts. The judiciary also says that the number of cases that were concluded increased by 19 per cent and the total number of cases per judge per month increased from 22 to 24.