Clergy from throughout the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe heard a graphic account of one of the bloodiest genocides in history, today, from the Archbishop of Rwanda, Most Rev’d Dr Laurent Mbanda. The Archbishop – who is in Northern Ireland with Tearfund and is being hosted by the Diocese of Down and Dromore – visited Londonderry to share with clergy about the journey of reconciliation which Dr Banda said had now made Rwanda the fastest growing economy in Africa.

Dr Mbanda was accompanied by his wife, Chantal, and Tearfund’s Country Director for Rwanda, Rev’d Emmanuel Murangira. Their itinerary included a question-and-answer session between the Archbishop and Bishop Andrew Forster.  

The Rwandan church leader said that he had lost four members of his extended family during the 1994 massacres which claimed the lives of around 800,000 people over a 100-day period. He also revealed that he, himself, as “one of the hunted ones” had been on a death list. “It was a time when you would see bodies everywhere,” the Archbishop said. “You had a number of people who said, ‘These are your people. You are not grieving.’ Well, there was no time to grieve. It was almost like you were numb…That was a very difficult time – to see death, to look death in the face…I was one of the people that was being hunted.”

Archbishop Mbanda talked about the Churches’ role in the Rwandan peace process which has transformed the country in the three decades since the genocide. His wife, Chantal, spoke to clergy about the huge impact and powerful influence of Mothers’ Union in Rwanda – and of the Fathers’ Union there. And Rev’d Murangira talked about the impact of the East African Revival upon his own family and the wider region.    

Bishop Andrew Forster said he was honoured to welcome the Rwandan visitors to the Diocese, describing them as brothers and a sister in Christ. He led the clergy in prayers for the Mbandas, for Rev’d Murangira and for their companions from Tearfund, Chris Thompson and David McAllister MBE.

Bishop Andrew thanked his guests for the richness of fellowship which they had shared in the Diocesan Centre before. “Father,” Bishop Andrew said, “we are touched and deeply moved by how dreadful and awful conflict has become a beautiful transformation through reconciliation. We are touched by how those who were perpetrators of violence and victims of violence have been able to find a way forward. We are touched to hear of [how] a country that just 30 years ago was a byword for pain and division and genocide, has become a place of hope and a place of energy in the heart of Africa. We pray for your blessing on the nation of Rwanda and we pray for your protection of that nation.”

The Africans’ visit was the highlight of a Continuing Ministerial Development Day for diocesan clergy. The day had begun with a Service of Holy Communion in St Columb’s Cathedral, which had been led by the Dean of Derry, Very Rev’d Raymond Stewart, assisted by Bishop Andrew and by Rev’d Canon John Merrick. The CMD day ended with Bishop Andrew presenting a Celtic cross to Archbishop Mbanda, to remind him of his time in Derry and Raphoe, and also a copy of the Common Prayer Book, signed by all the clergy present.