[World Council of Churches] Rwanda’s capital city Kigali was festooned with blue and white decorations on 31 July as the Anglican Church of Rwanda [Province de L’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda] Mothers Union (MU) celebrated a 50th jubilee. Joyous singing and dancing poured forth from a ceremony at the Anglican Kibagabaga Parish. Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, led the congregation in song. Rwaje is also the husband of MU-Rwanda president Josephine Rwaje.
The first lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame, was the guest of honour. She acknowledged the role mothers have played in rebuilding Rwanda. She urged the men to value their wives, saying even the Bible shows that “he who finds a wife, finds a good thing, he obtains favour from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:19).
In nation building, she said, women and men are necessary and must work together. She drew smiles from the crowd when she likened a good family to a little heaven on earth, and said it is disheartening to see the rate of family breakdown because this affects the whole nation.
She implored church leaders to do what they can to ensure families are stable because frustrations at home lead to more instances of sex abuse, drug abuse and crime. She also encouraged church leaders to guide parents on how to talk with their children especially about sexuality, and to do everything possible to encourage the children to stay in school. “We must work hard to train our children to embrace the real values of hard work, honesty and focus,” she said.
She promised that she was committed to work with all mothers in Rwanda.
Lynne Tembey, worldwide MU president, said that she felt truly privileged and honoured to be at the jubilee celebration, adding that, during her visit to MU-Rwanda, she has seen its work, achievements and hope for the future. She said that the MU was a wonderful movement of women serving God in different ways, both big and small.
She said that we must work to defeat the things that continue to bring women down, mainly sexual and gender-based violence, child abuse, rape and other forms of violence. Since taking office, she has visited South Sudan, Congo and now Rwanda and said she has been amazed by seeing the struggles of the African women and seeing how they work to overcome these struggles, especially how they support each other.
Her prayer, she said, is that the MU vision will be a lived reality. She encouraged the women of Rwanda with the words of Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“This is my prayer for Rwanda,” she said. “I encourage you, MU-Rwanda, as you look forward with renewed hope. Hope for what is true and have faith in God.”
The Revd Pauline Wanjiru Njiru, East Africa regional coordinator for WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy, observed that “the centre of the celebration was the family, which comes at a time when no single definition defines family in our African reality, as we have all forms of family ranging from child-headed families, grandmother-headed families, single mother-headed families, families in the streets, the ‘perfect’ families and the backdrop of same-sex marriages all challenging the conventional understanding of the African extended family.”
She tasked the church and society at large to rethink defining the family to be all-inclusive.