Spiritual Leaders Helped Rebuild Rwanda, Rick Warren Says on 20th Anniversary of Genocide

Expand | Collapse
Saddleback ChurchPastor Rick Warren speaking at a function in Rwanda on the 20th anniversary of genocide

Pastor Rick Warren of California's Saddleback Church, who is in Rwanda for the 20th anniversary of the genocide in the East African country, highlighted the role of spiritual leaders in helping rebuild the heart of the nation, just as government and business leaders helped rebuild Rwanda's politics and stability.

"God has blessed Rwanda in so many ways; so how does God want us to show our thanks to Him?" Warren asked a crowd of more than 15,000 people at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali on Sunday, according to a press release by his church.

"Thank God for the three different kinds of leaders He has used to build a new Rwanda — government leaders to rebuild the structure, business leaders to rebuild the stability and spiritual leaders to rebuild the heart of the nation," said Warren, whose church has been implementing The PEACE Plan in Rwanda since 2005, when Rwandan President Paul Kagame personally invited him to help make the country the first "Purpose Driven" nation.

"When we think of all the ways God has blessed us, it motivates us to admit our failures and ask for forgiveness," added Warren, who was speaking on a Day of Thanksgiving to celebrate reconciliation over the years since the 1994 genocidal mass slaughter of people from the Tutsi ethnic group and moderate members of the Hutu majority group.

In the genocide, 1 million Rwandans were killed and another 1 million children were orphaned over the course of 100 days.

"When people see what is happening in Rwanda they call it a miracle, but as Christians we know it is the love of God," Apostle Paul Gitwaza, pastor of Rwanda's Zion Temple, said while welcoming Warren at the function. "What is the legacy we want to leave the youth of Rwanda? It is a legacy of love — the love of Christ."

Warren is a member of the Presidential Advisory Council formed by President Kagame, who is officially identified as a Roman Catholic.

Rwanda was once a Catholic-majority country. But after the genocide, evangelical churches began to grow, as sections of the clergy in the nation's Catholic Church were accused of colluding with the killers.

While his opponents accuse him of being authoritarian, Kagame is widely credited with bringing economic growth to the country, which was named the world's top reformer in the World Bank's Doing Business Report 2010.

Kagame, who is Tutsi and has been in control of Rwanda since his rebel army ended the genocide, learned about Warren and his church after reading his book, The Purpose Driven Church.

Saddleback's PEACE ministry is an acronym for "promote reconciliations, equip servant leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick and educate the next generation." It mobilizes Christians to attack the five global evil giants of spiritual emptiness: self-centered leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease and illiteracy/education.

Warren, who has been in Kigali for the past week, also spoke at a National Youth Rally on Friday. "God only makes originals; he never makes copies. You are unique and God loves you," Warren told the 2,000 young people. "If you are going to be someone great, you must stop living for others' approval. … You are as happy as you choose to be; happiness is a choice. Stop waiting for something to happen in the future to be happy. God has put you in this country at this historic moment."

Warren also invited to Rwanda more than 100 leaders from 31 African nations, in addition to China, Russia, India and America, to discuss the Purpose Driven PEACE Plan.

The pastor also addressed a gathering of government and business leaders alongside Kagame on Tuesday.

"Sometimes God is going to put you right in the middle of a problem because he wants you to be part of the solution," said Warren. "In God's economy, the more you serve, the more you will lead. The size of your power is the size of your service."

"God has done what He needs to do — given us life and the positions of leadership and now the question is what we can do with that," said Kagame.