Rwanda should be identified with big solutions for large problems not its size, President Paul Kagame said last night. He was addressing a gathering that brought together leaders from over 30 African countries as well as Russia, India and the US.
The President was speaking in Kigali at a Leaders’ Fellowship, an annual event that’s part of Pastor Rick Warren, founder of Saddleback Church in California as well as the Peace Ministries initiative.
“Rwanda is small only geographically but large in a sense that it has faced big problems one of them being losing 10,000 people every day for a hundred days,” Kagame said, emphasising that if Rwanda can do it, anybody can.
He was referring to Rwanda’s phenomenal recovery from 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed over a million people and left the country on the brink.
Pastor Warren spoke first, narrating his first encounter with President Kagame.
It started in 2004 with the President picking a book off the shelf of his Chicago based friend, investor Joe Ritchie, who also attended last night’s event, and who would, alongside Warren, later become part of a club of distinguished personalities on Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council.
The book turned out to be Pastor Warren’s best seller, The Purpose Driven Life, and that was followed by a letter from Kagame to the American televangelist with a simple message defining Rwanda as a nation with a purpose and inviting Rick Warren to Rwanda.
The rest as they say is history.
The Peace plan was born following President Kagame’s invitation to Pastor Warren to join Rwanda’s journey as ‘a purpose driven nation.’
Peace is an acronym standing for; Planting churches that promote reconciliation, Equipping servant leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation.
Warren enlisted over 2,000 Saddleback Church members who have been coming to Rwanda in small groups to initiate a national strategy, with the cooperation of Rwandan churches, private sector leaders, politicians and civil society to get involved with the Peace initiative.
“Today, several thousand churches are carrying out the ministry around the country and other countries are eager to adopt the Rwandan purpose driven aspiration,” Warren said.
One of the activities of the Peace Ministries is the now annual ‘Rwanda shima imana’ (thanksgiving) event as well as the leaders’ fellowship.
On the topic of thanking God, President Kagame challenged Rwandans to go beyond being thankful and ask themselves what their contribution has been to the things the country is thankful to God for. “We should be thanking God for being on a path where we can stand on our own two feet and help others do the same. Thanking God is not enough. You must feel responsibility for the right things being done and ensuring results.”
For the leaders present, Kagame reminded them that while it is easy to know the meaning of the word ‘leadership’ in theory, the hard part is the practical aspect.
“Leadership has more to do with practice than theory, it’s about results, problem solving and of course it’s about people,” he observed.
The President repeated his trademark message of a self reliant Rwanda when he argued that, while friends who are helping Rwanda are good and must be commended for their efforts, Rwanda should be striving to move out of dependency and start helping others.
“We shouldn’t be thanking God because there are people who are always carrying our burden. Self worth is not about somebody doing something for you but about doing something for yourself and for each other,” he said.
The All Africa Purpose Driven conference
On Monday, during a news conference, Pastor Warren also announced that Rwanda will host the All Africa Purpose Driven Church Congress from August 6-10, 2015.
This unprecedented gathering of pastors and church leaders from all 54 African nations will be held in conjunction with Rwanda Shima Imana, a Day of Thanksgiving to celebrate reconciliation and gratitude on the anniversary of the Genocide.
It will be the first of five annual continent-wide conferences envisaged to take place by 2020, with the second planned to be held in Latin America in 2016, according to organisers.
“I have been to Rwanda many times but this is by far my most important trip,” said Warren.
“This week I am bringing over 100 leaders from 30 African nations as well as Russia, China, India and the US. I want them to see what is happening in this country and to see the growth, development and progress that has been made in both this nation and its churches as we prepare for the 2015 gathering.”