Rwandans in their thousands yesterday flocked their respective churches to celebrate Easter Sunday and different clerics in Kigali likened Jesus’ resurrection to Rwanda’s rebirth in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Preaching to his congregation, Pastor Amos Kajuga of Christian Life Assembly said that Rwanda’s story mirrors that of Jesus Christ because the country did not succumb to the wishes of those that wanted it decimated.
Instead of being lost in grieving and sorrow, the country put the energy in reconstructing itself in different aspects, which he said, is akin to the story of Jesus Christ, whose triumph over worldly evil is celebrated on Easter Sunday.
“Rwanda has resurrected, the nation is back on its feet and reconstruction is at an impressive stage. Jesus resurrection story teaches us one thing; faith. With faith, despite whatever problems such as disturbances, sickness, financial issues and others, the believers shall always triumph,” he preached to a fully packed Nyarutarama-based church.
The preaching also emphasized engaging children in gospel as an early foundation of Christian values.
At St Etienne Anglican church, Bishop Louis Mugisha of Kigali Anglican Diocese said that Easter brings about mixed feelings especially for Rwandans as the period is celebrated while the country is mourning victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“Easter is here with us and it reminds us that Jesus is risen and reigns forever, it is a time of mixed reaction for us in Rwanda, it is sad what happened in 1994 but also a time to be thankful that we have been able to rise up, which Easter symbolizes,” he said.
He said that Easter is a constant reminder that Rwandans have a redeemer.
“Where we had no hope for the future, we now have hope, Easter shows that where there is no end in sight, there is even a beginning,” said the Bishop.
At St Michel Cathedral in downtown Kigali, the church was packed to the brim and the celebrations were coupled with baptism of 20 children.
The Archbishop of Kigali, Thaddée Ntihinyurwa who was the main celebrant, implored Christians and all the people not to cling to the earthly fortunes, but rather strive to do good and emulate Jesus Christ through their actions.
“By so doing, you will prove that Christ resurrected, not hearing it from others, rather feeling it within you and realizing it in your actions,” he said adding that Christians will also witness Christ though emulating people who do good.
Father Gaspard Mukeshimana of Karoli Lwanga Parish in Nyamirambo, in his liturgy, prayed for better life free of disease.
“Father we pray that you bless us and prevent us from being sick, forgive the flock that stray and forgive whoever sinned against you,” he prayed.
Christians speak out
Different Christians who were interviewed reflected on the fact that churches – especially of the Catholic faith – became killing grounds during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Odette Mukandanga, 53, who prayed from St Michel Cathedral, said that the Church, which ideally would be a place for salvation and good actions in divine domain, saw Tutsi killed by priests and fellow members of the congregation.
Today, Mukandanga says that despite the 1994 tragedy where some people lost trust in church and viewed it with disdain, today Christians are convening in church and pray together in unity.
“Given what we have witnessed our country going through, and against the background of where the Genocide against the Tutsi left us, I believe most people have changed for good,” she said.
Epimaque Munyandinda, who prayed from Karoli Lwanga said that it is a joyful day to remember the love of Jesus who left a better place in heaven, came to earth and was subjected to unimaginable torture before being crucified.
“Today we are celebrating as we rejoice with him and reflect on our deeds on earth, this is a time for us to repent and vow to detest sinning again, it is a time to forgive and seek forgiveness so that we move forward and live in harmony as Christians,” he added.
Anontiata Muhorakeye, another Christian said that the fact that Jesus died and has resurrected means that Christians have a redeemer who is always watching over them.
“Jesus is our redeemer, as a Christian, I believe I am in his hands and his death means a lot for me, he resurrected to shame the devil, we resurrected with him and we are protected, we have an oath with him that we have to follow his steps and imitate him, this requires honesty, bravery and love, he preached love when he was on earth and we have to do so,” said the 27-year-old Muhorakeye.
In his Easter message for Christians, Pope Francis prayed for those suffering from war, famine and political unrest, highlighting Syria, but also Ukraine and conflict zones in Africa.
He expressed hope that Jesus’ own sacrifice might “sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria, prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death.”
And he prayed for peace “beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen.”
He also spoke out against the hostilities and famine in Africa, notably in South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo “who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting” parts of Africa.
He further urged world leaders to hear the message of peace as they contend with “the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world,” and to work “to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.”
Without mentioning Venezuela by name, Pope Francis also alluded to political and social tensions in Latin America, expressing the hope that the “common good of societies” would prevail.
“May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law,” he said
Turning his attention to eastern Europe, he asked that “the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed.”
Of the social and political upheaval in Europe, Francis prayed for God’s blessing on “those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.”
The mass followed his Good Friday prayer in which he deplored the suffering of migrants, the victims of racism and the persecution of Christians around the world.
Easter week got off to a bloody start last Sunday when 45 people were killed in attacks on two Coptic churches in Egypt which were claimed by the Islamic State group.