Warren calls for stronger ties between govt, church

Famed American evangelist and author Rick Warren has said a healthy relationship between government, church and private sector is paramount for long-lasting peace and development.  
Some of the people who turned up for ‘Rwanda Shima Imana’ conference at Amahoro stadium yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira)
Some of the people who turned up for ‘Rwanda Shima Imana’ conference at Amahoro stadium yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira)

Famed American evangelist and author Rick Warren has said a healthy relationship between government, church and private sector is paramount for long-lasting peace and development.

Pastor Warren was speaking yesterday during “Shima Imana”, a national thanksgiving festival, which attracted over 10,000 Christians at Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali.

The festival, that was first held in 2012 through the Peace Plan initiative by Warren, has since been embraced by thousands of Christian churches with the aim of involving their respective congregations in promoting reconciliation and other social services.

Equating a nation to a three-legged stool, Pastor Warren told the gathering that in the absence of a functioning government, a vibrant private sector or a serious church, a nation would crumble.

“In the Bible, God used three different kinds of leaders to build Israel. He used political leaders who put up strong institutions, business leaders who boosted its economy, and spiritual leaders who brought hope and togetherness. Without any of the three, a state will fall, just like a three-legged stool,” Warren said.

Warren is the founder of Saddleback Church based in California, United States, He is also a member of President Paul Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council.

He has authored many Christian books, including his bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life, which has sold over 30 million copies and translated in many languages, including Kinyarwanda.

He commended the country’s leadership, stating that whereas Rwanda was doomed to fail in the eyes of many after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the leadership focused on reconciling its people and building institutions that enabled it to rise from the ashes.

“Very many countries now look up to Rwanda for lessons. Just as God did in rebuilding Israel, He is doing the same in Rwanda today – and we should thank Him for this,” he said.

“Rwanda is not just an economic model but a spiritual model. It may have little land, but the people have the biggest hearts in the world.”

The Minister in the Office of the President, Venantie Tugireyezu, who represented President Kagame at the festival, commended Warren’s role in uniting churches in the country.

“Under Pastor Warren’s Peace Plan initiative, churches have been urged to pray for the country, bring the youth together, rebuild the lives of Genocide survivors, among other things. This indicates the goodwill and importance of partnership between the government and the Church in fostering peace and development,” she said.

“What happened in 1994 will never happen again; Rwandans have moved on.  Now, all of us – the public, private sector and Church – need to join efforts to develop the country,” the minister said.

Apostle Paul Gitwaza of Zion Temple and head of Peace Plan Rwanda, blamed the church for largely standing by while the Genocide unfolded, and also criticised church leaders who led Tutsi to their murderers.

“In July, we held a retreat in Musanze for church leaders and we signed a declaration that shows all the wrong things that the church did against this nation. We the church leaders repent to God for the wrongs we did and vow to heal the wounds of this nation,” he said as he read the declaration.

Through the declaration, the country’s top clergy also sought forgiveness from the survivors of the Genocide and Rwandans, in general, for their indifference and individual role of some members in the Genocide.

Click here for related interview