Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reconciliation - Amahoro Gathering Day 1

The focus of the Amahoro Gathering this year is the Gospel of Reconciliation.

Today we had introductory sessions from speakers from Rwanda, South Africa and Australia.

Sean Callaghan, a South African now living in London, spoke about the relationship between our theology and our concept of God, and therefore reconciliation.

He started by saying for a long time we have had things round the wrong way. Our ecclesiology (mode of church) has informed our methodology which has led to the tendency for Christians to compartmentalise people into two groups – those who are “in” and those who are “out”. However a theology of reconciliation, says Sean, gives us something different.

He pointed to the Trinity as the ultimate example of a reconciled community. A relational, loving God. This view of God informs our own praxis of mission.

He went on to look at the broader African context in relation to reconciliation; the Rwandan context (the 1994 genocide); the relationship between reconciliation and truth, justice and restitution and finally, pre-emptive reconciliation.

In terms of my church context a couple of things grabbed me. Sean asked the question; “What does the church I am from say about the God I represent?” He talked about the way in which the church has been complicit in atrocities such as the apartheid system in South Africa and the Rwandan genocide. This, he says, is because of a misunderstanding of who God is – the God of “ins” and “outs” rather than the God of reconciled community.

Another interesting point related to the relationship between theology and justice. Is our view of God as a criminal judge (a punitive theology) or do we view God as a judge who wants to set things right through restoration? A social justice rather than a punitive justice.

It will be interesting to see where this discussion leads us over the next few days. I think while there is an obvious relationship to the African continent, the topic is also very relevant for Westerners, and Aussies.

The second speaker was Frida Gashumba, who, as a 14 year old girl, miraculously survived the genocide, while the rest of her immediate family were killed. She has written a book about her experience which I am going to see if we can purchase to sell through Day 4.

We also heard from a Hutu lady called Maria who has embarked on the courageous work of calling members of her tribe to repentance. As a result of her work she is unpopular with many Hutu’s. She made the point, while the government in Rwanda is trying to publicly eliminate the tribal system, the reality is it still exists and many of the feelings and philosophies that resulted in the genocide are still festering away in the community. She believes the only way to truly move forward is for an acceptance of the existence of different tribes and the taking of responsibility by the Hutu tribe for the genocide. While many Hutu’s did not participate in the genocide (including Maria) I imagine the kind of response she is seeking is similar to that of the recent churches apology to the Australian Aboriginal people and also that of Aussie PM, Kevin Rudd. Not necessarily a blanket admission of guilt, but a taking of responsibility as a way of moving forward and experiencing genuine reconciliation.

The afternoon concluded with a talk by fellow Aussie, Fuzz Kitto on truth in reconciliation.

Dinner featured a welcome to Amahoro and included traditional Rwandan and Burundian dancers and drummers. Unfortunately about half way through the outdoor gathering the rains came, bringing a rather abrupt end to the night.

Long post – the day was jam packed as is the rest of the week. So much information, so hard to post it all. Muramuke – Catch you tomorrow!

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