CMS School that hope built - March 07
Caroline and Dick Seed have done more than build a school for Rwandan church leaders – they have helped bring hope from the ashes of despair
In the months following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the world was shocked to learn that there were church leaders who had either stood idly by or, even worse, participated in the slaughter of nearly one million people.
The complicity of pastors, nuns and church workers in one of the worst mass murders in history drew attention to the harsh reality that the genocide had happened inside Africa’s most Christian country.
This fact has had lasting repercussions for the future of Christianity in Rwanda. In 2002, The Washington Post reported that the number of Rwandans converting to Islam had risen dramatically – from 4% to 14% of the population – partly in reaction to the relatively kind treatment they received from Muslims during the genocide compared to Christians.
Against this backdrop of violence and confusion, a new institution has arisen that will actively promote reconciliation and healing: the Kigali Anglican Theological College (KATC).
The school is the realisation of a dream long held by Archbishop of Rwanda Emmanuel Kolini, who explains: “…[We] came to a common understanding that one of the reasons for the genocide was poor theological training of church workers.”
Kolini says Rwanda needs a Church whose mission is to transform Rwandan society according to the principles of God’s kingdom. His dream is that KATC will produce a crop of Christian leaders equipped to bring about this transformation.
Seeds of change
To produce this crop, one of the things needed were Seeds. Caroline and Dick Seed, specifically. As CMS missionaries, Caroline and Dick were based in Nigeria, working at St Francis of Assisi Theological College, before relocating to Rwanda in 2005, where they were given the enormous task of building KATC basically from scratch.
Dick was born in South Africa and Caroline, though British by birth, was raised there.
Kolini says: “Being Africans themselves, they understand the situation and are ready to use any opportunity in the hope that God will continue to bless his work.”
Dick admits that it felt odd to assume the role of principal for a college not yet established. Nevertheless, likening their new course in life to a train journey, he says: “We got on board, trusting the Lord’s promises, knowing that it is a total dependence on him through prayer that will power the train on its way.”
A school from scratch
Over the next year, so many things had to be sorted out, from planning curriculums to organising the library to overseeing the building works on a site 2 km from a main road – as well as figuring out how to pay for it all.
The Seeds were encouraged by donations that came in for the college from people in the UK and USA, including contributions raised by a group who participated in “Ride for Rwanda”, a sponsored motorcycle ride around the UK.
In February 2006, it was time to hold entrance exams and in March the school officially opened with 12 students from all over the country, three full-time lecturers, one part-time lecturer and one volunteer bursar.
During their first year in operation, being short-staffed was definitely a struggle. Fortunately, volunteers from various places and a short-term team from CMS were able to pitch in when needed. However, Dick and Caroline are hoping and praying for at least one more full-time staff member, especially since student enrolment is set to double this year.
It has certainly been a whirlwind two years for the Seeds and everyone involved with growing the new college. Dick and Caroline remain positive and grateful, despite the challenges they have faced. They realise they are working for lasting transformation in a country that still needs healing.
The garden of the open wound
The nearness of tragedy was brought home on 6 April last year, when class was dismissed and students went home for a genocide memorial week, followed by Easter holiday. Caroline says: “After a year of working [in Rwanda], we [had only just begun] to understand something of the trauma that the people have experienced. The hurts are so deep …”
Many women raped by HIV-positive men during the genocide have tested positive for the virus. Survivors are now living in the same neighbourhood as those who killed their loved ones, while some are still unsure if their friends and family are dead or alive. Some say it may take at least 100 years for the nation to totally heal from 100 days of horror.
Clearly there is much for the Church in Rwanda to do. The Seeds are equipping Rwandan church leaders so they can help people cope with wounds they can still feel.
The fact that this is taking place on Rwandan soil may mean that peace and reconciliation for the country are closer than imagined.
For more information, please contact the Church Mission Society at www.cms-uk.org or call 020 7803 3306