Evangelicals to “Replace Rwanda’s Memories”

Rwanda continues to be the focus of Evangelical fascination and charitable intent. Recently we had Rick Warren’s plan to make Rwanda the first “Purpose-Driven Nation”; now there’s Hope Rwanda:

ONE COUNTRY . ONE MISSION . ONE TIME . SHOULDER TO SHOULDER

HOPE RWANDA…100 DAYS OF HOPE

April 7th – July 15th 2006

The organisers are Australian Christian songwriters Mark and Darlene Zschech, but many other ministries are involved: Joyce Meyer, Samaritan’s Purse, Willow Creek, and Rick Warren himself are just a few of the better-known. The initiative was actually profiled in Christianity Today back in November, but passed me by:

Hope Rwanda – founded and directed by Mark and Darlene Zschech of Hillsong Church, Sydney, Australia – is a project to replace the nation’s painful memories of its 100 days of genocide with those of hope by coordinating projects to help rebuild the country and people. The project of hope next year will coincide exactly with the 100 days of genocide, April 7-July 15.

“Replace the nation’s painful memories”? Yes, I’m sure all those Rwandans are just waiting for foreign evangelicals to take charge and tell them how they ought to remember their tragedy. But predictable glib crassness aside, there is a serious intent:

Churches and Christian organizations during the 100 days will help address a wide-range of needs including the building of schools, homes, wells, orphanages; medical care such as immunization, open heart surgery, and dental care; supplying food, bicycles, Bibles, and everyday essential items; education on nutrition, hygiene, micro-enterprise development, leadership; training teachers, nurses, Pastors, youth workers, musicians; and caring for widows, orphans, prostitutes, prisoners and those without hope.

Somewhat downplayed in the report, however, is the fact that the “Days of Hope” will also be used for evangelising, through rallies and other “outreach events”, many of which will apparently be run by particular American and Australian churches. Prisoners, as noted above, will not be left out:

Joyce Meyer Ministries will also be visiting the inmates of all 16 prisons in Rwanda. Their teams will travel around the country preaching and demonstrating the gospel message. Prison activities will include dramas, skits, music, preaching and the distribution of hygiene gift bags to every person who is incarcerated there.

A captive audience, no less. The climax will be the closing ceremony in Kigali, led by Australian megachurch pastor Brian Houston, whose Hillsong Church is where the Zschechs lead worship.

I’m sure there’ll be a lot of good people out there getting things done – but I’m also rather uneasy: why not help Rwanda at some other time of the year? Here’s one of Africa’s greatest tragedies of recent years, being breezily appropriated by outsiders as part of what looks very much like a marketing gimmick of questionable taste.

5 Responses

  1. Just for the record, that story is from “Christian Today,” a U.K. website that does some original reporting but also rewrites many press releases. (Note how that story is almost entirely word-for-word from the Hope Rwanda website.) It’s not from Christianity Today, the U.S. magazine. But I can hardly blame you. After all, the Hope Rwanda site itself gets it wrong (http://www.hoperwanda.org/news.php)

  2. Whoops, I should have seen that. Thanks, I’ve fixed it now.

  3. […] campaign in Rwanda timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 1994 atrocities. I blogged on that here. Horizon Christian Fellowship is affiliated with Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel network of […]

  4. […] campaign of western evangelisation currently underway in Rwanda (and which was discussed by me here). The missionaries are offering substantial medical and development assistance to the country, but […]

  5. […] which has given him access to the country’s president, Paul Kagame. This summer also saw “Hope Rwanda“, a massive forty-day campaign which saw evangelists like Joyce Meyer flying into the […]

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