A letter from Kay Day in Rwanda
Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from Rwanda, where the weather is warm and the sun is shining. Sorry to my friends in the U.S. who have had such a terrible winter and still the cold grips you. You are in my prayers.
While most of the students from PIASS (Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences) were busy last week preparing for their exams this week, 10 of them and 6 faculty members went to Lake Kivu for a conference. Imagine sitting in small cabanas along the quiet lakeshore, discussing with colleagues and students, a total of 140 in all, from Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Congo, Uganda, Cameroon and Tanzania, about reconciliation and sustainable peace. Each of the persons present was from a country that has experienced war and genocide in some form or another, some, like our European friends, many years ago, and some, like the Africans, within our close memory. This made the topic not just relevant but personal.
The focus of the conference was the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer—his theology of ethics, justice, human rights and confession in the midst of war. Bonhoeffer stood against the Nazis in Germany, was imprisoned for his opposition, and was killed just two weeks before the end of the European fighting. This was not an academic discussion, but the practical dynamics of students from neighboring countries that have fought one another for years sitting together as Christians to deal with justice and injustice, to wrestle with when and how one can confess injustices that have happened on both sides. We struggled with where God is in all of this and what we are called to do as Christ’s followers in light of Bonhoeffer’s writings and scripture. This made theology personal and part of life, as it should be. There were differences of opinions and, in some cases, no resolution, but everyone left thinking more deeply about how to speak against evil and when to work for reconciliation. Hearts were touched because we were no longer talking about nations but speaking to people we were coming to know and enjoy as colleagues, and who were becoming friends as we listened to one another’s stories. That changes the dynamics of ethical discussions.
This is certainly no solution to the struggles. Building peace and reconciliation is a process. This was an important step in that process on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, when there are still tensions and hurts within the country and outside the country, with Rwandans and with neighboring countries. This is part of the reconciliation work of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda in conjunction with international partners, in this case, the Bonhoeffer Foundation and the UEM (United Evangelical Mission).
I am blessed to be a part of that process because of your prayers and your financial support. Thank you for enabling me to be here as a PC(USA) partner, teaching future pastors and working with churches active in reconciliation ministries such as this conference. You are helping to make a difference. Thank you.
Please keep the upcoming genocide memorial celebration in prayer. It is a big event because it is the 20th anniversary. There are still many deep wounds to be healed. Remembrance always pushes them to the surface. Please pray for our students who are finishing one term and immediately beginning a new one next week. They are diligent students with passions to serve God. Pray for me as I continue to learn more of the struggles of these people I am coming to love, that I may be wise and caring. I will pray for you for warmth and an early spring. How else may I pray for you? Please let me know.
Yours in love,
Kay (Cathie to the family)