BY Ian Dunn | December 1 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

IAN DUNN

‘Every programme the parish is involved in has a reconciliation element’

SCO/SCIAF blog from Africa December 2014: 1 Rwanda.

Driving up to Ruhanyo parish in Kabgayi Diocese in southern Rwanda is a disconcerting experience. It is Sunday morning, and hundreds of people are leaving Mass. A huge stream of humanity parts to allow the car to pass. The people, mostly dressed in suits and for the men and dazzingly colourful African dresses for women, pay us little heed.

Within a large compound the parish preist Fr Gasore Janvier offers a warm welcome, saying he is glad to talk to me as it will be a break after celebrating his third Mass of the morning, all had similarly large congregations.

Indeed the scale of this one parish is truly gargantuan. There at least 22,000 parishioners and one parish programme alone has 256 people working for it. More than 52,000 people are directly helped by the parishes anti-poverty programmes.

There are problems here, Fr Janvier, a Pallottine father, tells me, as it is a rural parish there is some serious poverty with people scraping by on little food. The work of SCIAF and other charities makes a huge difference but things are much better than they were.

“Peace is the thing,” he said. “Now there is peace people can live and work and improve things, when there is war and violence you are always living in a state of fear.”

A short man, stocky and strong looking, Fr Janvier is serious, if prone to the odd bark of laughter. Peace is something he is very greatful for, having served as a priest in war zones in the Congo, Ivory Coast and during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Although it is 20 years later, that ethnic conflict which left nearly a million dead in Rwanda still casts a long shadow.

“Every programme the parish is involved in has a reconciliation element,” he tells me. “Education, spirituality, health. There is even a special group than goes round every house, in the parish asking to allow them to pray for reconciliation. And of course people from different groups do come here together to say Mass together and pray, that helps. Now we just have to leave it behind us. In many ways it is a miracle how far we have come.”

 

—SCO deputy editor Ian Dunn (above) is travelling this month in Africa with the Scottish International Aid Fund (SCIAF) ahead of the aid agency’s 50th anniversary next year.

—Visit http://www.sciaf.org.uk/

 

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