Rwanda made great progress since the tragic events of 1994, when Hutu extremists seized power and began the genocide of the Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates. 800,000 perished in 100 days. Over 1 million fled, and more violence followed. Political stability since 2000 allows Rwandans a chance to rebuild. Rwanda’s economy is now one of the fastest growing in Africa. Females make up over half the elected parliament, the world’s highest rate. The government banned ethnic identification (Hutu, Tutsi, others). People are called Rwandans, and only Rwandans. Give praise for the people’s commitment to reconcile and build peace. Praise God that churches help lead this movement.
Rwanda's longer-term future must eventually move past the events of the 1990s. A development programme called Vision 2020 intended to transform Rwanda's economy, infrastructure and values into that of a middle income country. Now, Vision 2050 is being rolled out by the government. Other challenges loom large on the horizon, most notably:
- Political stability is achieved, yet greater freedoms could still be achieved. Political leadership is strong, but a healthy political opposition movement and a more independent press could make Rwanda even stronger. The government is very sympathetic toward Christianity, but is not without its critics, especially in the areas of freedom of expression, human rights and foreign policy toward the DRC. Righteousness exalts a nation; pray for such a dynamic to characterize Rwanda.
- The military-political conundrum of relationships among Rwanda, Burundi, Congo-DRC and Uganda remains a challenge. With the activities of rebels and militias, relationships are often strained and rise and fall regularly. Pray for patience, understanding and cooperation to work together for justice and to root out those who would destabilize the region.
- Rapid population growth and limited land promise to intensify the issue hidden at the root of the massacres. The traditional habit of parcelling out inherited land to all offspring created tiny parcels of farmland insufficient to even feed a family. Jealousy and greed were behind countless local episodes of murder and theft during the dark days of 1994-95. The terrible loss of life depopulated much land, but this same issue will inevitably resurface - Rwanda is already Africa's most densely populated country. Pray that wise solutions might be found to this deep-seated and long-term problem.
Religious groups for prayer:
- The Catholic Church, which lost much credibility by failing to adequately oppose evil and speak against the ethnic hatred that led to the massacres. Many righteous Catholics, including priests and nuns, laid down their lives to protect others. But others failed to intervene or even connived with the perpetrators. As a result, many defected away from Catholicism out of disillusion. Pray that such nominalism and compromise might never happen again and that genuine renewal will transform the Catholic Church; signs that Catholics are seeking renewal are encouraging.
- Evangelicals grew rapidly in the aftermath due to very active evangelism, aid programmes, ministry to the hurt and traumatized and a message of hope for all regardless of tribe. The East African Revival of the 1930s began in Rwanda. Pray for a new revival to break out, one that places tribalism and revenge at the foot of the cross and is characterized by repentance and reconciliation. Some evangelical groups seem concerned only with numerical growth rather than discipleship and transformation.
- Muslims also increased significantly in the last 15 years - unsurprisingly for similar reasons as evangelicals. Aggressive mosque building, aid and education programmes, a universal message that transcends ethnicity as well as the moral high ground for playing a less active role in the genocide have seen Muslim numbers increase to possibly over 5% of the population, although this number is disputed. There is negligible Christian outreach to Muslims, and churches have little idea how to do so; pray for a loving witness by believers.
Areas of specific need:
- HIV/AIDS is a massive challenge in Rwanda. The prevalence rate is as high as 10% for 14-49 year-olds, and 33% for pregnant women, a ticking time bomb to rob Rwanda of its next generation. SU, Mothers' Union, Christian Aid (UK), WorldRelief, WVI, AEE, Solace and many denominational ministries work in prevention and care. Rwanda is often touted as a success story in the battle against AIDS, but much remains to be done.
- The Pygmy Twa are a small ethnic group who live in rural, often primitive, conditions. Many are potters and farmers, since their traditional hunter-gatherer jungle lifestyle is under threat from deforestation and unjust eviction from forest reserves. They suffered acutely during the genocide as innocent victims of the Hutu-Tutsi violence. They are generally poorer and less educated, and are often exploited by others. The percentage of believers among the Twa is lower than other groups. Pray for Rwandan churches and expat missions to minister to this unique but vulnerable group in a humble, sensitive and loving way.
- Women at risk. Many were widowed by the genocide; others are effectively widowed as their husbands still languish in prison. Between 100,000 and 250,000 were raped, a systematic use of terror that left nearly half of the victims HIV-positive, psychologically traumatized and socially stigmatized. Females tend to have less education and less opportunity for work; as a result, many have fallen into or been forced into prostitution. Pray for more ministries to work with these women; Cru, Rwanda Partners, Mothers' Union, AEE, Solace and others are already doing so.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.