Thanks to a grant from the 2006 ELCA Youth Gathering , more than 85 youth attended a March 27-30 gathering in Kigali, Rwanda. Organized by the Lutheran Church of Rwanda, many believe it to be the first ecumenical youth gathering in the area since the 1994 genocide that left more than 1 million people dead.
Under the theme "Great Lakes Youth Conference: We are the future of Africa!," youth reflected with their ecumenical peers and bore witness to the 1994 genocide. The event offered a safe space for learning, healing and developing conflict-resolution skills.
Youth came from Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania and the U.S. They represented Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God and YWCA groups.
Gaylord Thomas, ELCA program director for East Africa, said participants wept in sorrow and anger during visits to two churches where killings occurred and one can still view the remains of clothing and bones.
George Kalisa, bishop of the Lutheran Church of Rwanda, encouraged the youth, even in the midst of sorrow, "to love each other, help each other and work hard. We want you to transform the world by becoming peaceful, [calling for] justice and forgiving our enemies."
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