Rick Warren’s Purpose for Rwanda

ASSIST Ministries carries an interview with Rick Warren containing this interesting sub-heading:


Warren said that the plight of Africa was very much on his heart at this time. “I’ve been in three different countries in Africa already this year,” he said. I’ve been Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya and actually in ten days, we are going back to Rwanda. The President, Paul Kagame, has invited us to help Rwanda become the first ‘purpose-driven nation.’

“We are going to go there for ten days and I’m going to do a day of training for business leaders as well as training for the government leaders and the cabinet and also a day of training for the religious leaders. Then, on the last day, on July 16th, we are going to do National Reconciliation Rally in National Stadium of Rwanda to talk about reconciliation between the Tutsi and Hutu. It will be eleven years after the genocide.”

Warren first announced his plans for Rwanda back in April, when he launched his five-point “P.E.A.C.E.” plan for Africa: the letters stand for “Plant churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation.” Warren can be seen as natural successor to Charles Finney: just as Finney developed a method for organising successful revivals in the 19th century, so Warren’s success is down to tutoring by management guru Peter Drucker – who now calls Warren “the inventor of perpetual revival.” Warren has applied his “purpose-driven” technique to churches, Christians – and now, a whole country looks like it will be next.

Warren made his announcement at Saddleback church’s 25th anniversary celebrations. The Baptist Press reported at the time:

The official rollout of P.E.A.C.E. will focus on the small country of Rwanda in eastern Africa, where a million people were killed in a 100-day genocide in 1994. A recent visit to the country convinced Warren that Rwanda had the right qualities for what he called “the first model of national cooperation” between churches and a country’s leaders.

Warren said he was impressed with the spiritual depth of Rwandan church leaders who opposed the genocide and have led the people into a “spirit of hope and reconciliation.” He also said he believes God wants to begin something new in a small country that the world ignores.

Warren then introduced President Paul Kagame as a “wonderful Christian leader” who has demonstrated his trustworthiness in rebuilding the country.

The BBC offers up some more personal details about Kagame in this 2000 profile:

Although Mr Kagame often mocks his image as a military strongman and powerbroker, little takes place in Rwanda without his knowledge.

…Colleagues hint at an ascetic temperament, presenting the president as an incorruptible teetotaller and strong disciplinarian.

Mr Kagame eschews any form of flamboyance and is a low-key, dry public speaker. He is married with four children. Leisure pursuits include playing tennis and reading.

…Paul Kagame is also a firm advocate of Rwanda’s continuing military engagement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, arguing that vital security issues are at stake and nobody but Rwandans will protect his country’s security.

Kagame led the rebel troops that finally ended the Hutu-led massacres in 1994, so Warren’s enthusiasm is understandable. However, Warren would perhaps be wise to maintain some critical distance. From today’s BBC:

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has begun hearing allegations of human rights atrocities committed by Rwandan troops in DR Congo.

DR Congo accuses its neighbour of armed aggression, mass slaughter, rape, abduction, looting and assassination.

The charges were filed in 2002, and are strenuously rejected by Rwanda. DR Congo also made accusations of village-burning against Rwanda back in November; Rwanda maintains that it only sends troops into Congo to hunt down Hutu extremists who have been in the country since 1994. In December 2004, Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch noted that some of these Hutu groups have themselves been killing and looting local Congolese. However, she also claimed that

Rwandan officials say their “surgical strikes” will target only FDLR [the “Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda”, which many of the Hutu forces  in DR Congo have joined], but distinguishing combatants from civilian populations is often difficult. In addition, civilians are frequently caught between demands for assistance from competing forces and end up being punished for having given—or for being suspected of having given—aid to the other side. In the last week there have been reports of villages burned and of civilians killed.

In July 2004, HRW’s Juliane Kippenberg was rather more explicitly critical, writing in the UK Observer:

…the “fight against genocide” has become an excuse for new abuses. It served to justify four years of Rwandan occupation of eastern Congo, which in turn sparked Africa’s bloodiest war. The genocide was used as a pretext for dissolving the main opposition party before presidential elections last year. Now, the RPF-dominated parliament wants the country’s largest and most respected human rights organization to be dissolved – allegedly in the name of preventing genocide.

In order to justify action against the League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (usually known by its French-language acronym, Liprodhor) the parliament insists that Liprodhor “supports genocidal ideas”. In reality, since well before the 1994 genocide, Liprodhor defended the rights of all Rwandans. It sought international action to avert the impending genocide. Those appeals fell on deaf ears. In the past decade, it has monitored genocide trials, pressing for justice to be both swift and fair.

On a recent visit to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, I was struck by the atmosphere of intimidation…

LIPRODHOR was affiliated with the Roman Catholic peace group Pax Christi. Its website is now inactive, but readers of French can see what it used to say at Wayback. Amnesty International added in January:

The expected closure of LIPRODHOR follows a well-known pattern for human rights organisations in Rwanda. In the case of LIPRODHOR, parliamentary commissions have, on two occasions in March 2003 and June 2004, made vague and unsubstantiated allegations regarding their “divisionist” and/or “genocidal” activities. In the Rwanda of today where one’s innocence rather than one’s guilt has to be proven, such allegations are usually sufficient to effectively blacklist the organisation or individual. Such organisations find it nearly impossible to hire and retain staff or raise funds. Following the release of the more recent parliamentary commission’s report, the organisation’s assets were temporarily frozen and several key LIPRODHOR staff sought asylum abroad.

Specifically, LIPRODHOR was accused of involvement with the deaths of some genocide survivors; four other NGOs were also dissolved.

So, will Warren’s American gospel of management help to steer Kagame away from the path of authoritarianism? Or does Warren risk becoming a stooge for a dictator, as other evangelists have before him?