The Bishop of Rwanda Hardcover – 27 Apr 2007
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THE BISHOP OF RWANDA tells the rest of the story, and it's one that needs to be read and heard and digested and repeated over and over again. Because it's not "just" a story of one nation's experience with inhumanity and brutality and unimaginable horror. It's also a story of widespread political ruthlessness and machinations --- and of personal forgiveness and reconciliation.
Here's a brief refresher. In the spring of 1994, the world began to pay attention to a conflict in Rwanda that had been brewing for some time. In April of that year, the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed in a suspicious plane crash near the airport in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Fighting between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda escalated, but as far as the world was concerned, this was a civil war between rival tribes. (In the interest of full disclosure, I helped cover the aftermath of the conflict for Charisma magazine, and today I blanch at how little we understood the real reasons behind the war --- even though we received the best information available to us at the time, from people on the ground in Rwanda.)
Anglican Bishop John Rucyahana tells a far different story from what we were told in 1994 and the years that followed. The true story is one that began many decades earlier and over the years directly involved Belgium, France, several African nations and the United Nations, and, indirectly, the United States. (President Clinton cited his failure to act on the genocide in Rwanda as his greatest mistake.) Repeated warnings, alarms and cries for help coming out of Rwanda prior to 1994 were routinely --- and worse, flagrantly --- ignored by the world community. When the genocide began, some of the people who had been sounding those alarms were the first to be killed.
On a political level alone, THE BISHOP OF RWANDA is a must-read. The behind-the-scenes but direct involvement of European and African nations in the genocide makes for a compelling lesson in global politics, one that we would all be wise to pay close attention to. Things are not always as they seem; sometimes, they are far worse, as this book reveals.
After reading about the horrors of the killings, which were more brutal, cruel, sadistic and horrific than even Hollywood could portray, and the evil of wanton political corruption --- just when overwhelming despair begins to overtake you, when you're ashamed to be a member of the human race --- Bishop Rucyahana begins painting a picture of Rwanda today. It's a picture of forgiveness and reconciliation that is guaranteed to give you the chills and cause you to blink back the tears. A former refugee who led the protest against the genocide now serves as Rwanda's president and has been instrumental in promoting forgiveness through conferences and government-supported programs. One effort toward fostering reconciliation between Hutus and Tutsis is a truly remarkable program in which perpetrators of the genocide are building houses for the survivors. It's enough to make you want to be a member of the human race once again.
Please don't dismiss this book because you're not necessarily interested in the topic. It's important on so many levels that there's bound to be one that resonates with you. And it's so well-written that you may find it more captivating than you anticipate. Yes, it may break your heart, but it may also restore it.
--- Reviewed by Marcia Ford
In his book, Rucyahana recounts a history of genocide in Rwanda, from its causes to its completion. On its own, it is a thorough examination of the events of the Rwandan genocide, but the author truly makes it a compelling account: he was there. John Rucyahana became the bishop of the Shyira diocese of Rwanda in 1997, serving his term during the violence. He escaped death many times. Friends and members of his family were not so fortunate. Today, he has committed himself to reconciliation within the country of Rwanda and has founded an orphanage dedicated to providing for children orphaned during the genocide there. All things considered, John Rucyahana is more than qualified to write this book.
The Bishop of Rwanda begins with the story of a Rwandan family stricken by violence. This is quite possibly one of the most shocking parts of the book. Rucyahana continues to explain the causes of this violence, as he begs the question: what would turn two peaceful, harmonious peoples against one another? The answer is surprising and outraging. From there, he gives a history of the violence from its rise to its fall. He ends with an explanation of the need for reconciliation and the current efforts toward that end.
Throughout this book, however, the purpose remains the same: to explain how, even through all of this violence, in the end God was glorified. Now that the genocide is over, Rwandans are turning to God as never before.
Due to its subject, The Bishop of Rwanda is a very violent book. All throughout the book there are graphic descriptions of murder and other violent behaviors. Thus, this book should probably not be read by someone under the age of 16. However, the overall message of the book is good, especially considering the current similar situation in Darfur, and I highly recommend it for those 16 and older.
It's always been easy to be complacent. It's even easier today, when much of the world embraces the concepts of freedom and equality. The Bishop of Rwanda gives the Western world a much needed reminder that things like this do happen and need to be stopped. More than that, it gives everyone a reminder that God can turn even a tragedy like genocide into a victory. - Peter Semple, Christian Book Previews.com
However it many ways it was a labored read. At times the content is scattered and includes statements that appear factual but seem little supported other than with the author's personal opinion. In addition the style is halting and tiring to read - the influence of James Riordan seems limited.
A useful once-only read but this book is not something I would read more than once and would not on most occasions recommend to the casual reader.
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