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Rwandan Peacemaker to return to U.S. this fall

Presbyterian pastor to discuss aftermath of 1994 genocide

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Jerome Bizimana Nkumbuyinka. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE — The horror of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is still fresh for Jerome Bizimana Nkumbuyinka. That’s when more than 800,000 people were slaughtered by perpetrators over a 100-day period following the assassination of the country’s president. The attackers came from the ranks of the Rwandan army, government-backed militias and national police and grew from a conflict between two groups: the Hutus and Tutsis.

Even after 24 years, the healing continues. Nkumbuyinka has been pastor of a Presbyterian church since 1998 and also served as the initiator for the Light Group, an organization composed of genocide survivors and perpetrators.

“The Light Group is helping people to live in peace through testimonies,” Nkumbuyinka said. “The state of mind following the genocide is improving. The church and government have worked hard to build a trustworthy community which can accept each other no matter what happened.”

Nkumbuyinka’s peacemaking work has taken him across the country to help build trust between groups such as the Congolese and Rwandans.

“Rwandans were destroyed economically, physically, socially and spiritually, but now you can see how people have been restored,” he said. “Both perpetrators and genocide survivors are living and working together and some have even exchanged marriage vows.”

Nkumbuyinka credits good leadership for helping change the mindset in the aftermath of the attacks. He says more focus is placed on the common goals versus differences as well as looking toward a bright future by learning from the past.

He says the church is unique in helping reconcile people in conflicts, adding that it carries a message of hope and love. The church has encouraged perpetrators to ask for forgiveness and the survivors to forgive through seminars, trainings, workshops and sports organized by churches.

Nkumbuyinka is one of 10 international peacemakers who will be visiting the U.S. this fall through the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. He and the others will speak at churches, seminaries and other gatherings from Sept. 21 to Oct. 15. This is his second visit as a peacemaker having participated three years ago.

“I will share how the Presbyterian church in Rwanda is helping people who faced different problems following the genocide,” he said. “I will share stories of what the Light Group is doing and strategies that the church has prepared to help the next generation.”

Annual visits by peacemakers to the U.S. have taken place since 1984. More than 300 individuals have participated in the program from as many as 57 countries.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is also planning a travel study seminar to Rwanda March 11-23, 2019. The theme is “Reconciliation Work in Rwanda: Healing the Trauma of the Genocide.” Visit the seminar webpage for more information or to apply to participate in the seminar.


The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is supported by gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering.

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