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Rwandans remember the genocide but forgive

Peacebuilding, reconciliation and servant leadership form the heart of pastoral ministry

by Kay Day | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Mission co-worker Kay Day with Elisee Musemakweli. (Photo by Kathy Melvin)

RWANDA – At the end of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, 16 Presbyterian pastors had been killed, many had been wounded and some had fled the country. The churches that remained were empty.

The president of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda called his colleague Elisee Musemakweli to return from Belgium, where he was finishing his PhD. Together, with the help of German and Dutch partners, they restarted a two-year theological training course, with emphasis on peacebuilding and reconciliation.

Musemakweli recalls a question one of the first students asked him: “You’re going to teach theology, but we know that before the genocide, theology was taught in this school. We know many ministers have been involved in the genocide. Now, what kind of theology are you going to teach us?”

Musemakweli used that question to train pastors in biblical principles of servant leadership, reconciliation and peacebuilding. That question helped shape the training now offered at the Protestant University of Rwanda (PUR).

That initial training equipped 36 pastors to face the challenges of restoring the church. Seven of those trained in that special program are now leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda, including the president, vice president and five presbytery presidents. The ecumenical program included Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists and Pentecostals. Many of their leaders have been trained in this theology, too.

Musemakweli left full-time teaching to lead the Presbyterian Church for 12 years as president and is now back as chancellor of PUR, continuing to shape the future of the church for servant leadership and peacebuilding.


The Rev. Mary Catherine “Kay” Day, mission co-worker serving alongside the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda, helps prepare men and women for pastoral ministry by teaching English and practical theology at the Protestant University of Rwanda.

Support the ministry of mission co-worker Kay Day in Rwanda.

This article is from the Fall 2017 issue of Mission Crossroads magazine, which is printed and mailed free to subscribers’ homes within the U.S. three times a year by Presbyterian World Mission. To subscribe, visit

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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