Inter-denominational youth gathering concludes in Kigali, Rwanda.

April 13, 2008

The Lutheran Church in Rwanda hosted more than eighty five youth across the religious divide who gathered at Presbyterian centre in Kigali, Rwanda from 27th – 30th March, 2008, in what many believe was the huge youth gathering witnessed in present Rwanda since the 1994 genocide that left more than a million dead. The conference under the banner ‘Great Lakes Youth conference: we are the future of Africa! Brought together Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, youth from Assemblies of God church and YWCA.

Youth from Congo, Tanzania, Burundi, USA, Kenya and Namibia joined their Rwanda counter-parts to deliberate, reflect and bear witness to the killings committed during the 1994 genocide. The conference provided safe space for learning and healing for tens of thousands of youth affected by the genocide additionally, it provided youth with education on starting and managing small businesses.

ELCA staff at the Lutheran Office for World Community -Emily Freeburg was instrumental in formulating the vision, fund-raising and organizing the conference. Mr. Gaylord Thomas ELCA-Director for Africa Desk/East Africa joined the conference to give support and encourage the organizers.

The conference funded by ELCA presented life time opportunity for many youth in the Great Lakes countries to discuss, worship, interact and learn about conflict resolution, peace-building and reconciliation. In his opening remarks the head of Lutheran Church in Rwanda, Bishop George Kalisa sent a strong message to the youth noting that- ‘you (youth) are the art of the world…we want you to transform the world by becoming peaceful, have justice and forgive our enemies’ he said. He went on to add that the conference was an opportunity to share thoughts and ideas in order to ‘…understand and know the value of all mankind’. Bishop Kalisa encouraged the youth to uphold strong faith even in the midst of sorrow- ‘we see sorrowful images, but with God’s trust we are urged to love each other, help each other and work hard’.

Mr. KOBUKYEYE Frank the Director for Rwanda Peace building and Conflict management (NURC), shared a presentation at the conference on peace, conflict and management process in Rwanda; which touched on Rwanda genocide lessons- case scenario, hurdles in rebuilding societies, post-genocide reconstruction efforts and reconciliation approaches tested in Rwanda. While emphasizing the importance of forgiveness, reconciliation and giving chance to genocide perpetrators, Mr. Kobukyeye reminded the youth that-‘….every person given good education can become useful to the same community instead of punishment’. His presentation was a powerful reminder to the youth (who were young during the genocide) and educated them on Rwanda history. Frank listed some of the core elements in reconciliation process as honesty, sincerer regret, readiness to forgive, and effort to address past injustices. The director went further and noted that- ‘…genocide isn’t only about approving death penalty, (is about)..respect to law and human rights’. Frank sighted reconciliation as a by product of poverty eradication noting that ‘poverty is a hindrance to successive reconciliation…. (Meaningful reconciliation) must touch on economic issues’- said Kobukyeye. In response to question on the role of youth in peace and reconciliation, Mr. Kobukyeye said –‘youth are not intoxicated as the elderly….(youth) are willing to work, co-operate and actively participate in peace-building’.

We killed people….

People involved in genocide got an opportunity at the conference not only to testify about their actions and killings but also to seek for forgiveness for their actions. Giving testimony and sharing is one among other strategies employed by the National Reconciliation and Unity Commission to inform, educate and promote national healing and unity among the Rwandans after 14 years of the genocide. Mr. Rukera Emmy president of Tuvindimwe Uyagi (reconciliation committee) said- ‘no one in Rwanda who witnessed genocide, like her children to pass through the same’. The testimony session aroused buried grief and anger among the genocide survivors (present) which led to program interruption (youth directly affected by the genocide could not hold back tears as the testimonies refreshed long-forgotten memories of their beloved ones). James (name withheld) remorsefully explained during his testimony –‘we killed people even when we had nothing to kill for…..’.

Beatrice from YWCA offices in Rwanda took the participants through the basic skills and requirements for setting up small businesses to improve on their economic power. She also empowered youth at the gathering with tips on efficient project management. Young adults from YWCA gave testimonies on how they started and succeeded in business with small capital. ‘….genocide brought poverty to Rwanda….the income generating knowledge is useful for the youth’- said Juliet at the end of project development session.

Margaret Hansen 29 years old youth from Namibia said –‘the gathering opened (her) eyes to human suffering…..in the absence of peace’.

Dreams closer than ever before.

Genocide survivors in Rwanda have known no other life in the past fourteen years than pain, anger and hatred inflicted by the 1994 memories of the genocide. The conference transformed many hearts, changed souls, gave hope for the future and opened doors for dreams… dreams for success and dreams for peace. And at the conclusion, youth were transformed and appreciated life and all its gifts. Dreams were closer to realization than ever before in their lives ‘…..with dreams and chance, we see everything is possible’ – said Selline Wela (YWCA youth in Rwanda).

(Rwanda Youth gathering was made possible through grants from ELCA and was the first youth gathering hosted by Lutheran Church in Rwanda since the genocide. For more information please visit: http://www.rwandayouthgathering.wordpress.com )

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The Grand Opening of The conference

April 7, 2008

From Novotel, we headed for Gikondo and we were blessed by Tim Wright’s presence since he had been ill but he managed to go with us.

In Gikondo, at the conference hall people were praising and worshiping and it was almost Lunch time and for the first time I interviewed someone,guess who?..Gaylord…..Thomas who is the ELCA African Secretary

We had lunch and were told to go back to the hall as the Rwanda youth`conference was to be opened at 2:00pm but it slightly went beyond this.Our MC then was Gaylord who welcomed the Director for National Peace and Reconciliation, Mr.Frank Ukobukyeye who was to teach us the Youth about Peace and Reconciliation.He started by introducing himself and also the topic, he gave us good examples of People(those living and dead) e.g Mahatma Gandi and His Excellency Paul Kagame ,etc how they are a good example of Peace and reconciliation advocates this was a success by use power point presentation and this was also better as it didn’t take a long time,people were attentive through out and also images were seen.Very much was taught and he concluded by telling the roles of the youth in Peace and Reconciliation and after Mr.Frank’s teachings the Bishop’s Speech followed.

Bishop Kalisa welcomed the visitors from the Great lakes region s, Namibia and United states, he thanked the youth that came for their time, then conveyed his message and also concluded by telling the youth that they are the future and the ones to make a difference.

I was disappointed though that the minister of the youth who was supposed to come didn’t show up as I had targeted on interviewing him. Then after this praising and worshiping prevailed.

(Genevieve)

My decision to go to the Youth Conference.

April 4, 2008

On Easter Sunday,I met Emily from New York who is a member of the Organizing committee and she told me about the Youth Conference which was a new idea since I had never been to one though I had received an E mail from Alycia telling me about it but I had no Idea to when it was due until I met Emily. I translated for her as she conveyed her message to the Youth at Lutheran Church of Rwanda,Kigali,and this is the point where I really decided to go to the conference. We the Youth from Rwanda were the ones to host the other youth from the Great Lakes region and United States of America.We decided to meet on the 26th of March,2008 for more briefing on what was expected from us the Rwanda youth as hosts of the conference.

On the 26th,which was a Wednesday,we started training and I was interested in being in the media team , I(Genevieve) and my two colleagues(Florence and Dorice) had brief training on Photography,Video shooting, what to consider while interviewing someone and how to create a blog.To me some of these where new experiences like creating a blog.Though brief and  we could not do the blog due to a problem of network, the other parts were covered and I looked forward to the next day when the Conference would be opened officially and I would apply the skills I had acquired.

(Genevieve Mutesi)

The Morning of March,27th 2008

April 4, 2008

In the early morning of 27th,March 2008, I got a phone call from one of my Media team colleagues(Florence) who informed me that we were to meet at Novotel a hotel in Kigali where one of our experts on the team(Alycia Wright) and her father(Pastor Tim Wright ) were staying, and here we were to be taught how to create a blog since this area had convenient Internet connection as compared to the Conference Venue in Gikondo, a place in Kigali where the Conference was held. I prepared myself hurriedly and hit the road towards Novotel………

At Novotel, I met Alycia and since the rest of the media team had not yet arrived we decided to chat,we had a lot to share since it had been Year and two months since we had last seen each other.Before we had gone further with our conversation,the rest of the team joined us,(George,Florence and Dorice). Alycia showed us her father’s blog,so as for us to understand it even better and revealed to us the username and password of the (Rwandayouthgathering’s Weblog) and we were told to write posts,upload pictures and also Videos if we had any,and we were excited to get started.Alycia and her father were very kind and hosted us in their room as we did our work and they shared cookies and water with us,our thanks goes to Alycia and Tim Wright.Because of you we acquired the Blogging skills and not forgeting our brother George Arende for teaching and sharing with us his Journalist skills.We salute you all!

(Genevieve)

Photo Essay

March 30, 2008

What struck me about the genocide testimony

March 29, 2008

Im elizabeth, I just wanted to talk bout the genocide in Rwanda. Many people died, is just unbelevable! We had some visitors today, this guy was just explaining to us what had happen in Rwanda during the genocide, he was one of the pepole who were there and he saw everything that happen and actually he participate in the killing of the Tutsi. He was trying to apologize to Tutsi’s youths in the conference about what happen….. some people seem to have understood and forgive him. It was really hard for him to explain everything….that happened

I just wanna advice all youth all over the World, i think we should learn of what happen in Rwanda, and take it like an example. The genocide is so serious lets pray about it, and pray for Rwanda so that such a thing will never ever happen in our World.
thanks

Elizabeth Masolele
From Tanzania

Greetings from Gaylord Thomas

March 29, 2008

Sharing life experience by the youth in Rwanda

March 28, 2008

The youth started sharing their life experiences early in the morning. This was quite interesting since some of the youth were free and open to share their life experience with the rest. Those who shared include; Elizabeth (USA), Diane (Rwanda), Yvette (Rwanda), Magreth (Rwanda), Therance (Burundi), Mark (Rwanda). All these gave their life testimonies and it was really sad and touching. Even some of the youth started crying from sorrow because of their life experience. The fact the youth felt comfortable enough to share their moving stories was really exciting and encouraging.                                                                               — Dorice Mutoni, Mutesi Florence & Mutesi Genevive

NEWS RELEASE NO. 2

March 27, 2008

GREAT LAKES YOUTH GATHERING IN KIGALI, RWANDA

 

27th March, 2008 Kigali, Rwanda– The Rwanda Youth Gathering opened today in a colorful ceremony presided over by Bishop George Kalisa of the Lutheran Church in Rwanda, at the Presbyterian centre Itito Isano.

 

Bishop Kalisa in his opening speech stressed the importance of the gathering since it brought together other youth from other countries. Bishop thanked the conveners who made it possible for the conference to be held in Rwanda. He went further to say -‘the youth are the art of the World’, and urged ELCA to hold such meeting/ conference annually noting that such conference offered opportunity for youth growth.

 

The head of the Lutheran Church in Rwanda recognized the presence of other youth from Catholic, Anglicans, Presbyterians and Islam who had been invited in the conference. He sighted the conference as inter-faith youth gathering geared towards finding a lasting solution to peace and reconciliation.

 

Youth can transform the World….

‘This conference presents an opportunity to learn, share thoughts and ideas on how to change the World by becoming peaceful…enhance forgiveness’- said the Bishop. In the opening speech Bishop reiterated the need to forgive our enemies. He urged all the youth participants to visit the Rwanda genocide museum as a constant remembrance of need for peace and co-existence among brothers and sisters.

 

Bishop Kalisa concluded that all humanity looks upon the youth to help in transforming the World into a better place. He added that this was only possible if -‘young people use God’s gifts to distinguish between good and evil…. And make choices for peace’.

 

Mr. Frank Kobukyeye- Director Peace Building and Conflict Management (NURC) presented at the youth conference the strategies used by Rwanda after the genocide to restore peace and promote national healing and unity. Frank said that ‘genocide isn’t only about approving death penalty but is based on respect for law and human rights’.

 

NURC Director underlined poverty as an huge hindrance to successive reconciliation. For reconciliation to succeed – ‘it (reconciliation) has to address the economic issues’, Frank concluded.

 

The Lutheran Church of Rwanda (LCR), in partnership with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is hosting a conference on youth leadership here in Kigali, Rwanda. More than 80-100 youth, including international and regional participants are streaming into Rwanda beginning today to discuss ecumenism, reconciliation, and poverty alleviation. The conference has three components: dialogue with church leaders and small group discussions; genocide memorial visit and reconciliation workshops; launching and building capacity of youth-led income generation projects.

Media training session at the ELCA Rwanda gathering.

March 27, 2008

The media training started on wednesday at Presbyterian centre, and it was intresting because,we met George and Alysia and they were able to share with us about blogs,how to upload photos,and how to use flip videos.and at  the end of the day,we managed to take some photos and videos,and we found it intresting.The same training continued to the following day at the Novotel hotel (because we had no internet access at our venue) ,but this time,we tried to do it in our own,which was fun.

 Mutesi Florence- youth from Rwanda