Posted: 26 June 2014
Summer Mission Team 2014
Greetings from Rwanda.
Its difficult to believe that we have only been here for three days. So much seems to have happened. Hopefully the below will give you a flavour.
After a good but long flight the UK part of the team arrived in Kigali at 2pm on Monday and settled into our accommodation. Unfortunately, due to a hiccup with visas, the Australian contingent had a delayed departure (but they arrived yesterday - Wednesday - afternoon).
In the meantime, the UK part of the team got stuck in with the programme. Tuesday morning was spent with the Lawyers of Hope staff getting an overview of the work that they are involved in. It was striking how much a relatively small staff team is able to achieve - as Chris put it, "Lawyers of Hope are hitting above their weight!"
In the afternoon the team went to the national memorial and museum dedicated to the 1994 Genocide. Needless to say it was an sobering time as the story of what happened in this beautiful country in 1994 is told in some detail - a million people killed in 100 days simply for being from the wrong ethnic group. That evening we spent some time reflecting on what happened and how we relate our faith to it - there are no easy answers, but a conviction that the God we serve is passionate about justice is a great comfort in the face of such massive injustice. We also reflected on the role (or lack of role) of the international community in what happened here.
Our enquiry into the genocide continued the next day when we visited two further memorials which had been built at sites of particular massacres. Both churches, the tutsi had taken refuge in their grounds, believing they would be saved. Sadly that was not the case and its estimated that in the one church 10,000 people were killed. If the museum had told the detailed story of the genocide, these memorials gave the genocide a human face - the magnitude of the numbers can often mean we forget each was an individual!
Against this background it would be easy to lose hope! But the work of Lawyers of Hope is a reminder of how much the country has moved on since 1994. And just when we needed that reminder we were taken to meet one of the beneficiaries of Lawyers of Hope's work, J.
J was arrested in April 2009, when he was just 15. He was put in prison whilst the case was further investigated (under the law this is allowed for 30 days). But J was never released. In fact he was still in prison when Joy, Lawyers of Hope's Prisons Coordinator met him in December 2011. He had repeatedly tried to find out what was going on with his case, but no information had ever come. Joy took on his case and followed up the matter at the court. Eventually she got an appointment with the President of the relevant court and remarkably J's file was found within five minutes! It turned out he had been tried in absentia (and acquitted!) in January 2010. But because this had never been communicated to the prison, he had remained in custody, not even knowing he was acquitted. Joy was able to make sure the papers got to the prison and J was released in May 2012.
We met J at his home - he's now married with a child and has built his own home. His testimony was striking. If it had not been for Joy, it is very possible he could still be in prison - this is the difference Lawyers of Hope are making in individuals' lives. A real encouragement of the difference Christian lawyers can make, but also a window into some of the challenges facing the justice system here!
Looking ahead the programme is now stepping up in busyness. Today we have headed out of Kigali to lead some legal education seminars on child rights (more of that in the next update!) Tomorrow we will be doing the same in another part of the country, then on Sunday we will be helping to lead a national conference for Christian law students (where Matthew will also be giving one of the keynote addresses).
Thank you if you have been praying, we so appreciate it!