This Covenant with God and with each other is based on the second [most] important commandment ever given to humanity, found in Mark 12;31.
We, Christians, from the churches in Africa and beyond, thank God for making it possible for us to gather at the workshop on "Lasting Peace in Africa" in Kigali, Rwanda, from. 16th to 19th April 2004.
We came to Kigali, to stand in solidarity with the people of Rwanda who suffered terribly the horror of genocide that claimed the lives of more than one million innocent people in 1994. We listened to the testimonies of the survivors of the genocide, and visited genocide remembrance sites where we saw with our own eyes evidence of people's inhumanity to people. We accept our guilt for inaction during the genocide in Rwanda before God, and offer our apology, as some Rwandan churches did, to the people of Rwanda.
We saw the remnants of the genocide in the form of bones, skulls and dilapidated clothing and personal belongings of babies, children, youth and adults. They were frighteningly displayed as [a] reminder of the dark hundred days [that] the Rwandan genocide lasted, at the Ntarama Memorial (formerly a Roman Catholic chapel) as well as at the Kigali Memorial Centre. We also heard stories of women victims of the genocide who were raped and who are today living with HIV/AIDS and bruised bodies; child-headed households and totally handicapped persons. These the ecumenical family must undertake to assist in any way possible.
As we pondered on the genocide stories, we were convinced that the perpetrators of the genocide killed their humanness, cut off their relationship with God, before they could take away the humanness of others. The depth of the horror challenged us to deeply reflect on ways and strategies with which we can build everlasting peace in Rwanda in particular and the rest of Africa in general.
The abuse, anger, tension, humiliation, trauma, pain and tears inherent in any genocide experience like that of Rwanda remind us of the event leading to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Matt. 27)
The false accusation and torture of the innocent are truly degrading, to say the least, and an affront to the Gospel of Christ. Hence, like Peter, the Apostle, the best human response would have been to encourage the victims to draw their swords in revenge; and yet Jesus ordered Peter, his disciple, to put back his sword. Christ, the master, warns that those who kill by the sword will die by the sword. (Matt. 26: 48 - 52)
This is an experience that teaches us to struggle for peace at all costs. This is why as Christians, we teach and preach confession and repentance before the message of peace, reconciliation and love to all and sundry. We thank God for the victory of Easter - for bringing us back to life, for bringing Rwanda back to life. The significance of Easter being that Christ rose from death in a victorious way.
We are therefore grateful to God, the sustainer and giver of life, for the hope and courage found within and among Rwandans who [have] embarked with determination [on] the process of reconstruction of this beautiful country and reconciliation of its sons and daughters.
Many countries on our continent have the potential of repeating the Rwandan experience, and now that we have time to prevent a similar occurrence, we commit ourselves that never again should such a degree of violence and crime against humanity [be] allowed to occur in any of our countries. Consequently, we in the workshop dwelt on identifying issues such as the manipulation of ethnic identities, dominant tribal attitudes that have the potential to destabilize the continent of Africa, and do hereby covenant with God and each other to:
Share widely our experience and invite all persons of goodwill to work
for peace in Africa and the world at large.
We were touched and overwhelmed by reports on the efforts of the Rwandan government, churches and humanitarian agencies [to engage in] solidarity and acts of healing [towards] the victims of the genocide, even though more resources are needed to complete the task of restoration.
We therefore call for strong advocacy effort and support of the healing process currently taking place in Rwanda. While we plead for support for the efforts of the Rwandan government, the churches are encouraged to witness [their] prophetic ministry by standing for truth, justice and reconciliation.
As we renew our covenant with God and each other, we assure all genocide victims across the globe that you are in our hearts as we seek to fulfil these promises. We invite men and women of goodwill to accompany us in this journey aimed at the restoration of the integrity of humanity in our troubled world.
Dated this 18th day of April 2004 in Kigali, Republic of Rwanda
[This covenant was adopted at the 16-18 April 2004 ecumenical workshop on “Lasting peace in Africa” convened by the Protestant Council of Rwanda and the Alliance of Evangelical Churches in Rwanda, the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC).]