Rwanda: Refinding My Religion

Rwanda is by far the most Christian place that I have ever been – more than Italy, more that the southern United States. Any given day of the week you will hear singing in the churches, the doors will be open, and life will be unfolding amongst the wooden pews. Sundays have this festive air as women in floor length prom dresses and men in suits fill the sidewalks on their way to or from their church.

People here seem to live for the Church.

A look inside the Genocide Memorial Church in Kibuye.

And what amazes me most is that, through my completely elementary observations, it seems like the people them

selves own the churches. At home I always experienced the Church as a place to be talked at, a place to have dogma imposed upon me.  Here it is as if the people themselves have built the walls, created the space and shaped the religion into an expression of themselves.

And it makes sense. After living through so much terror, fear, and pain, any human being would be reaching out for something to give some structure and sense back to life. And once they find it, they would want to own it and make into something better than themselves.

All this makes me think that not having a religion (I was baptized and raised Roman Catholic but really can’t bring myself to follow any religion these days) might just be a privilege that many of us take for granted. If we don’t suffer, if we don’t look death in the face and walk away, why would we need to ask for help? Why would we need to fall back on our faith in something better?  If our life isn’t hard, why do even need to bother worrying about an afterlife?

The next time I am in a place where we are all asked to join hands to pray, instead of standing quietly to the side, I think I’ll join in and thank life for the privilege of never having to pray.

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