Blog Template Theology of the Body: Africa Night at WYA

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Africa Night at WYA

As most of you know, I am spending the week in New York at one of my favorite places on the planet, the World Youth Alliance international headquarters. We have gathered our regional staff from all the corners of the globe under one roof for the week, and it is a LOT of fun to re-connect with friends from Nairobi, Manilla, and Mexico City. We have worked and traveled together, and now, in the comfort of our lovely house, our wonderful staff prepare dinner and a party for each other each night. Tonight was Asia night, complete with karyoke; but last night was my favorite... Africa night! We ate ugali with our hands and danced the night away. In honor of all the laughter and joy, and the beautiful sound of my African friends singing a song of thanks, I am re-posting below a favorite excerpt from my trip to Rwanda on behalf of WYA this past summer; if you want to read more on point, feel free to poke around in the July Archives...

Those Little Moments of Restoration

We teach our young people of the World Youth Alliance that the monumental changes that lead to authentic improvements in the developing world happen slowly, beginning with the the heart of the individual person and extending from his conversation and committments to the rest of the culture, such that little by little, political changes must follow. In the words of Vaclav Havel, author of "The Power of the Powerless," transformation begins in the small places, in the hidden gestures, in the tiniest assent to living according to the truth. It seems so often that this is the way that God works too. Certainly His work is steady, progressive, and "small" in the tiny nation of Rwanda. His gestures are wonderful. Yesterday, I was struck by two instances of God's restoration here.

First, our Nairobi staff were invited yesterday to broadcast an address to young people over the national radio. Bear in mind that the KLM radio station of Rwanda was the major networking tool of the Hutu Power/Interhamwe genocide, in which a million people were killed in three months- just twelve years ago. Yesterday, that same radio station became the voice of young people eager to serve one another by building a culture of life.

Secondly, some friends and I traipsed over to the national stadium last night for the Hillsong worship concert. During the 1994 genocide, thousands of people had clustered there under the frantic watch of ill-equipped UN peacekeepers, and there hundreds of men, women and children died from starvation, disease, or Interhamwe assaults. Last night, thousands of former enemies were gathered to worship God together. My friends and I realized the enormity of the fact that yesterday (a very tense national "holiday," since all Rwandans had to appear for jury duty under pain of arrest) was the final national trial of persons accused of genocide. So, many of the people who had to deal with justice in the morning were gathered to praise God for His awesome forgiveness in the evening. What a very clever God we have.

And finally, there is that weekly moment of celebration every Sunday in the enormous cathedral of St. Famille; although almost every Rwandan living in the capital city has tragic memories of failed asylum in that building, on its altars the greatest gift of love ever made still recurs again and again... and the faithful are there to taste and to see. It is the most beautiful thing- during the Eucharist, the Rwandese do not stand in hushed silence nor do they kneel in prayer- rather, the Rwandese shout for joy and applaud.