The Anglican Church of Rwanda, St Etienne Cathedral will next week host a three-day international spiritual revival conference that will bring together delegates from around the region and beyond. The conference will focus on peace and nurturing a responsible young generation among others. The New Times’ Athan Tashobya spoke to Rev. Samuel Mugisha, the senior pastor at St Etienne Cathedral, who shares insights into the convention as well as the spiritual challenges faced by the church. Excerpts:
Tell us about the spiritual renewal conference and the rationale behind the timing.
It is a three-day spiritual awakening conference where we expect to engage all age groups, for the glory of God in our city. It’s an exciting, cross-cutting convention, the first of its kind at our Cathedral.
We have heard of various cases of immorality and evil acts going on around the city. Just the other day, we heard of a young man who stabbed a little child to death in Nyamirambo. We have heard similar cases all around the country, though not very often.
Couples are divorcing, children are killing their parents, and we have also heard of homosexuality. There is, therefore, need for us to come together as a church and advocate for change. There is no better way to do transformation advocacy than engaging the public in a spiritual revival movement.
As a church, we seek to transform ourselves, transform other people around us and then be able to rebuild those broken walls of our society and strengthen the moral fabric of future generations.
Are these immoral acts an indication of moral degeneration in Rwanda?
I cannot really say we have totally lost morality in our country, but the next generation is faced with overwhelming temptations of sexuality, drug abuse, alcoholism, media and internet indecency, among others, which require concerted effort to fight.
And as a church, we have a lot to do to keep our society morals. We hope this convention will be a reminder that we must seek spiritual renewal which will eventually be reflected in our acts. A clean soul is reflected in good actions.
Exactly what are the expectations from the event?
Our expectations are way too high; first of all we expect several motivational speakers who will engage various categories of audiences, including political and church leaders, youth, and adults among other groups.
We expect to have cross-cutting spiritual renewal, in our families, our society, among our leaders and the region because we are going to have participants from across East Africa.
All our expectations are in line with the vision of the Cathedral that has been to reach out to God’s people with a holistic message of God.
What is your take on the high rate of divorce in families that you alluded to earlier on and what should be done to stabilise unions?
Well, I acknowledge there is a lot of excitement among the young people towards marriage. Some get married because a friend, or neighbour or a schoolmate has gotten married. It is becoming more or less of a bandwagon and this has put the marriage institution at stake. Young couples should take their time to decide on marriage, pray about it, and think twice before marriage.
Marriage is a lifetime commitment, you need to love this person differently every day, and be ready to overcome challenges every day. During the upcoming convention, we shall have different married couples sharing their testimonies and telling us what God has done for them. I believe this will be a great opportunity for the young people to learn about marriage before they get into it.
Despite what Rwandans went through 20 years ago, there are some people still bent on playing the ethnic card for their selfish political ends. What should the Church do to reconcile the Rwandan community for sustainable peace?
Like I said earlier, the devil is fighting the progress of our nation. All those people behind the spate of insecurity in the country are simply self-centred.
We have seen where this country has come from and where we hope to be in the future. As a church, this is where we should come in to engage in total reconciliation and peaceful struggle for the betterment of our nation.
What are the measures put forward to attract the youth to the convention?
We shall have a sports activity (fun run), which will be competitive and will have prizes to attract as many youth as possible, especially from Nyamirambo, Biryogo and Kimisagara areas. We shall have speakers from the National Police, Mark Kigozi, an inspirational young and motivational speaker from Uganda, and the Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, will also be around.
Who are the main speakers expected at this event and how many people do you expect?
In addition to Mark Kigozi, we shall have open air preaching from our bishops; Edward Muhima and Nathan Gasatura, Canon Antoine Rutayisire, Pastor Gerrit Worfaadt from South Africa and the Rt. Rev. Louis Muvunyi, our host and presiding bishop.
Pastor Worfaadt will share with us how he was part of a group of young men who were planning a genocide in South Africa during the Apartheid regime. He has since been transformed spiritually.
Are you targeting only participants from the Anglican Church or will the conference transcend denomination?
God is for us all; therefore, we wish to have all people with us. We hope to have our Muslim and Catholic neighbours who are a few metres away from this place (their worship centre). Let us all come.