It’s not so easy to forget the horrific history of a nation where about 1 million people were killed in approximately 100 days by fellow countrymen in 1994. This accounted for about 10% of the population. Since the Genocide is fairly recent, It may be OK to think that Rwanda will still be buried in ruins but ironically, Rwanda is becoming one of the fastest and promising models of transformation that I have ever seen in all my travels.
In the last 10 years, about 1 million people have been lifted from the grip of poverty through the transformational projects taking place through the government and the church.
About 100 Christian leaders from 30 African countries and other non-African countries including Russia, China, India and USA where invited by Rick Warren, the author of the best-selling book “Purpose-Driven Life” to visit Rwanda and witness the process of transformation-at-work. Rick has been working in Rwanda with President Paul Kigame for the past 8 years, with the goal to make it the first “purpose-driven nation.”
Upon arrival, I was stunned by the peaceful atmosphere in Rwanda. From customs at the airport all the way to catering staff in restaurants, they exude an impressionable kindness to all foreigners. Given its history, it was unbelievable to experience this kind of calm and warmth.
The thing that I loved the most about this trip was seeing how pain can be transformed into power. Rick himself recently lost a son to suicide, to which he shared that pain with us right from the very first meeting. We then proceeded to see the pain of Rwanda at the Genocide Memorial Museum.
Rwandan leaders shared about their journey from darkness to the light of forgiveness and reconciliation. Everywhere we went, each person spoke freely about the genocide, but without anger or a sense of vengeance. I found that remarkable how they have been able to keep the memory alive but put the anger and pain behind them.
The people are humble and yet dignified.
They walk tall and speak softly.
They take great pride in sharing their stories while showing hospitality.
They are professional and do not overwhelm visitors as one sometimes experiences in 3rd world countries.
Rwanda is a green country. The streets are extremely clean. Even the cars are mandated by law to be driven clean when on the road. Their surroundings are not necessarily flashy, but rather neat and stylish. Rick Warren even said that “Rwanda is cleaner than America.”
The transformation in Rwanda is not only visible to the eye, but also in places of power. There are about 60% of women in Parliament. Rwanda currently has the most women in Parliament than any country in the world!
Initially, I had reservations regarding all the wonderful reports we were hearing since we were only seeing a fraction of the country, because we stayed in one of the top hotels, dined with the President, drank only bottled water and were driven around in chartered buses. I thought that it was not the “real” Rwanda.
However, on our last day, a local friend, Emmanuel, took us around the city of kigali. He excitedly showed us the incredible new developments sprouting everywhere, in places that he described as “rural” before the genocide – from the wealthy neighbourhoods to the average middle class residential homes – every where was impeccably clean and stylish.
How is it possible for a nation to rebuild itself on the very grounds that its inhabitants were almost wiped off completely? Where did this courage come from to rise from the ashes?
After this eye-opening trip, I am reflecting on how we can all use our pain as a powerful motivator for personal growth. Nothing is wasted in life. What doesn’t kill you either leaves you stunted or makes you stronger.
At some point, every one of us will be faced with a phase in life where it will appear that all that you know or possess is suddenly no more. You will be required to pass through the void, where you “let go” and yet “not know” of what you are taking hold of next. These times are frightening, but only a conscious choice to keep moving forward is required to bring you out at the other side where the glory and beauty lies. Sadly, many give up because the dark is long and undefined.
When we hold on to our pain, it becomes a baggage that weighs on our present, hindering our journey towards the light. When we put our pain behind us and keep the lesson before us, it serves as a bearing that guides us towards wholeness and magnificence.
“Dark times are the doorway of accelerated awakening.”
Rwandans have harnessed their pain and turned it into an incredible force of re-birth. We are witnessing the future rising right before our eyes. This is the story of hope for the future of Africa and the world.