Rwandans Share Their Experiences in Peacebuilding with Their South Sudanese Brothers and Sisters in Christ

A Letter from Kay Day, serving in Rwanda

March 2019

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Dear Friends and family,

One of the great joys of life is when a plan comes together. About two years ago, a few PC(USA) mission co-workers and a few members of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda sat together and dreamed of the possibility of a few colleagues from South Sudan coming to Rwanda to learn and talk about peacebuilding. That happened this past week. Praise God.

Shelvis Smith-Mather and Dr. Sasaki in a discussion.

PC(USA) co-worker Bob Rice and three of his colleagues from Nile Theological College in Juba, South Sudan, and PC(USA) co-worker Shelvis Smith-Mather and one of his colleagues from RECONCILE in Yei, South Sudan, arrived on Saturday evening to spend a short but eventful three days with us at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS). We began with worship on Sunday in Kigali. Then we visited the national Genocide Memorial, which began a long discussion on how we remember and memorialize the traumatic events of our history. At PIASS, the focus shifted to programs and projects that train our students to cope with the past and to work toward the future. The South Sudanese engaged in lively discussions with the vice chancellor, Dr. Kazu Sasaki (the head of the Peacebuilding program), and other faculty and students from the Peace and Conflict Studies program as they compared and contrasted situations and programs.

Bob Rice and colleagues making book covers.

One of the major differences in our contexts is that Rwanda has been at relative peace for the past 25 years and has been able to reconcile and rebuild in that atmosphere. There was major healing to do with about 1 million people killed in just 100 days and easily as many fleeing the country. Many are still dealing with the trauma of the genocide, and the memorialization of it sometimes reopens that pain. In South Sudan, the fighting that began in 2013 is still ongoing, even though there has been a temporary peace signed. As one of the participants explained, people go to bed at night praying they will not be killed during the night. Most of the killing in South Sudan is done by armed rebel forces, unlike in Rwanda, where most perpetrators were individual citizens. Gunfire and trauma in South Sudan are new every day. But to a person, our guests said that the hope of peace and reconciliation was renewed with this visit. Two of the most hopeful events were the exercises demonstrated in the Alternative to Violence Project that the PIASS Peace Center offers, and a visit to a Center project that works with a group of women who are working together on income-generating projects. The project began as a reconciliation training and developed into what it is today, 14 women assisting each other, seven survivors and seven wives of prisoners. We were able to work on a project with them and talk with them about their experiences together. The women were receptive to answering questions and to sharing their experiences. The guests counted this as a highlight of the trip: not just talking about peacebuilding but seeing it in action. We agreed this was the first in what we hope will be more exchanges of programs and experiences. This moves partnership to a multinational level. What a blessing to be able to help facilitate this exchange.

This was possible because of your support for me and other PC(USA) mission co-workers. Thank you.

It could not have happened without you because I would not be here without you. Your prayers and support make it all possible. Please pray for the opening for more opportunities like this to connect our various African partners with one another. I pray for Lenten blessings for you.

Yours in Christ,

Kay (Cathie to family)


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