Rwanda’s hilly terrain earned the country the moniker “the land of a thousand hills.” But this small, landlocked nation in the Great Lakes region of eastern Africa is better known as the country that suffered one of the worst genocides of the past century.
Hutus and Tutsis settled in what is now Rwanda sometime around the time of Christ. In general, Hutus were farmers whose communities dotted this fertile land. Tutsis were cattle ranchers who moved their livestock around looking for suitable grasslands. Over time the Hutus and Tutsis developed a common legal system to resolve conflict, and a common language in which to conduct business.
In 1884 Germany colonized a large portion of eastern Africa—including Rwanda. During World War I, Belgian troops, stationed in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, invaded Rwanda. Following the war, the League of Nations granted Belgium control of Rwanda. Belgium united Rwanda with Burundi, another former German colony, and renamed the joined countries Ruanda-Urundi. Belgium did little to change the existing class system in Rwanda, which favored the minority Tutsis over the majority Hutus.
In 1959 a group of Hutus overthrew the Tutsi king. This action sparked the first widespread violence between the two tribes. Some 150,000 Rwandans fled to nearby countries. There was talk of a new government that would allow Hutus and Tutsis to share power, but in the end Belgium decided to split Rwanda from Burundi and started the process of giving both countries their independence.
Rwanda enjoyed relative peace, although ethnic tensions simmered under the surface until 1990 when some of the descendents of those exiled in 1959 formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front and invaded Rwanda. The ensuing civil war lasted for three years. In 1994 Rwanda’s Hutu president was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali. This incident is widely blamed for sparking the ethnic violence that led to the genocide of nearly 1 million people, and sent some 2 million refugees fleeing for their lives to other countries.
Adventists in Rwanda
Kinyarwanda, English, French
Roman Catholic, 56%; Protestant, 37%; Muslim, 5%; other, 2%
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
CHURCH GROWTH IN THE LAST YEAR
* General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics, 146th Annual Statistical Report—2008.
Despite the unrest through the years, the Adventist Church continues to grow. Today it has one of the best ratios of Adventists to population of any country in the world: one Adventist for every 22 people. Rwanda is home to seven Adventist hospitals and clinics, dozens of Adventist primary schools, two Adventist secondary schools, and the Adventist University of Central Africa.
Not only did many Adventists die during the 1994 genocide, but a considerable amount of church property was destroyed. One of the losses was the original campus of the Adventist University of Central Africa. Fortunately, the Adventist Church secured a plot of land in the heart of Kigali from the Rwandan government on which to build a new campus. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help complete a large multipurpose building that will serve the university as a lecture hall and church.
Rwanda is one of 10 countries that make up the East-Central Africa Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This division is hosting “Follow the Bible” this month. Sponsored by Seventh-day Adventist churches around the world, “Follow the Bible” is an initiative meant to encourage Adventists to take a deeper interest in daily Bible reading. The traveling Bible started its journey in the Philippines during the fall of 2008 and will finish at the General Conference session in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A., in June.