Blog Template Theology of the Body: MM's Out of Africa III: Two Hundred New Members, Forgiveness, and a Jaunt into Congo

Thursday, July 13, 2006

MM's Out of Africa III: Two Hundred New Members, Forgiveness, and a Jaunt into Congo

The directors of WYA- Africa and I spoke to an audience of over five hundred university students today in the NW province of Rwanda called Gisenyi, and after a productive presentation which resulted in our doubling our Rwandand membership (!) we celebrated with a lot of chicken stew eaten with our hands for lunch, and a motorbike ride along the beautiful shores of Lake Kivu, over the Congo border into Goma. What a wonderful day!

During my talk on the solidarity of persons as the foundation for social progress, a Rwandan man raised his hand for a question. I have anticipated this for years, but I still wanted to cry when he raised the quiet, ever-present issue: "who are you to presume to propose these notions to us?Who are you to show up from the West to deliver these ideas, when the West destroyed our culture through colonialism and the slave trade in the first place? Who are you to speak to us about "solidarity" when solidarity was made impossible in Rwanda by the colonists of your culture? Indeed, how can you speak about solidarity without first offering an apology for these historical offenses?"

It was a just and dreaded onslaught of issues. I have written and studied so much about this sort of thing from the comfort of a library, but when the issue was addressed to me, in front of hundreds of my peers, when I stood for the bad guy who had oppressed and abandoned the innocent in the eyes of hundreds of genocide survivors, I felt incredibly defensive as the tears welled up. I waited while two gracious members of our Rwandan panel took the microphone and explained the apparent fallacies in the young man's questions. But I knew what had to be done.

There can be no "solidarity" without reconciliation. As Christians, we are they who agree quickly with their adversarys while we are on the way because we long most of all persons for the unity of Christ's re-creation. I had to swallow up the fact that I personally had little in particular for which to apologize; I asked that young man to consider me a representative of the West, and I asked him to give to us the gift of his forgiveness.

There was a thunder of applause. I suppose the Rwandans had been waiting for that.