Calls for church leaders and members of their congregations to uphold family values and pay particular attention to the most vulnerable ones in the community, namely children and the youth, took centre stage as the Mothers Union Rwanda chapter marked 50 years, on Sunday.
From the First Lady Jeannette Kagame, to Dr Onesphore Rwaje, Archbishop of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR) and Lynne Tembey, Mothers’ Union Worldwide President, one key statement was emphasised; a need for Church leaders to take lead in upholding family values and inspiring more responsible childcare practices.
While giving a keynote address, at the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Mothers’ Union at Kibagabaga Anglican Parish of Gasabo Diocese, Mrs Kagame noted that a good family allows children to live happily to exercise their full potential — consequently acting as a backbone of a more prosperous and peaceful nation.
“You (Mothers’ Union) have been here for many years, you have equally done a lot, but we still have a long way to go, and, as such, still a lot is needed of you,” Mrs Kagame said.
“You have done great exploits, especially when it comes to fostering family values; because we all know that building a good home can be compared to making heaven on earth. When couples live in peace — with each one equally fulfilling their responsibilities — the family gains a strong foundation, able to withstand life challenges.”
The First Lady noted that Rwanda is seeing some of its youth falling victim to drugs, promiscuity and sexual abuse, dropping out of school, but also a number of children with no homes and parental guidance, who now live in the streets.
“I urge you to champion childcare reforms and promote good family values by encouraging parents to give birth to children they can afford to raise. Let’s join hands as churches and government to protect our youth. We need to be watchful of our family practices so that we uphold the kind of values that translate into positive actions for the wellbeing of our entire community,” Mrs Kagame said.
She observed that, when married couples join efforts, this also eases the family’s socio-economic development.
The First Lady recognised the role of parents, specifically mothers, in Rwanda’s post-Genocide rebuilding, saying ‘mothers often naturally stepped in as counselors’ providing the support needed by communities to start healing, in the absence of enough trained psychologists. ‘‘As such, associations like Mothers’ Union that focus on the wellbeing of the family, play an important role in helping rebuild our societies.’’
Emphasising the importance of stable families in a country’s development, Mrs Kagame quoted Bible scriptures, including Proverb 18:22: ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing and receives favour from the Lord.’
“This scripture shows how God created us (women) for a special purpose…Yet still, a woman will never achieve anything in isolation unless she works hand-in-hand with the husband, women must agree that, “Fathers’ Union is equally important,” Mrs Kagame said.
Founded by Mary Sumner in 1876, Mothers’ Union was established in Rwanda in 1965, and now has 24,450 members across 11 Rwandan dioceses of the Anglican Church. Their main focus has revolved around upholding family values through marriage counseling; improving maternal and child health and nutrition awareness campaigns, according to Joséphine Mujawiyera Rwaje, Mothers Union Provincial President (PEAR).
Mujawiyera expressed her wish to partner with Imbuto Foundation — a non-profit organisation founded by Mrs Kagame — and the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, in continuing to instill good family practices, as well as “nurturing orphans in Rwanda.”
The event was preceded by a Sunday sermon led by Alexis Birindabagabo, the Archbishop of Gahini Dioceses. Birindabagabo’s sermon was derived from the book of Esther 2:1-9 which talks about the life of Queen Esther, a young woman Mordecai had adopted — but turned to be a savior of her tribe.
The Archbishop urged celebrants to be responsible for every child, for they don’t know “who might turn out to be Esther.”
Lynne Tembey, the Mothers’ Union Worldwide president, encouraged the celebrants to keep doing well in their communities, for the transformation of every body.
“Since Mothers’ Union formation, seeds have been sown and grown and have come to fruition—to win homes for Christ. I want to thank you for your role in upholding families. There are many forms of violence out there; I challenge you to keep fighting on, your initiatives will come to fruition my friends, in God’s time,’’ said Tembey.
Archbishop Rwaje lauded the Mother’s Union for contributing toward creating peaceful homes, through parenting initiatives. He said that their programmes have been important in “reminding husbands and fathers to partner with their spouses to bring about peaceful homes for children to grow; this you must not stop.”
About 3000 guests, the majority of whom were women from Rwanda and abroad, attended the event.
Mothers’ Union was introduced in Rwanda in 1965 by Mrs Julia Braham, wife of Lawrence Braham, the first Bishop of the Diocese of Rwanda-Urundi. The first conference of Mothers’ Union was held in Shyogwe (Muhanga) in 1966.