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Rwanda's resurrection of faith

Pews were packed Sunday with Easter worshipers, many of whom had left after the church's role in the 1994 genocide.

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She waited all week to cry. Finally, in the midst of the Easter service at Kigali's new Zion Temple, as 3,000 worshipers stand around her, singing, swaying, arms upstretched, voices shaking the floor of the airplane hangar sanctuary, Agathe Rumanyika found a safe place to mourn the father, mother, and sister she lost a decade ago this week.

Ten Easters ago, she was celebrating the Resurrection at St. Michel, one of the Rwandan capital's biggest Catholic churches. The following week, the killing began. Ms. Rumanyika, her husband, and their young children first hid with friends, then borrowed a car and sped for the Congo border - evading death, she says, only by a series of miracles. As they fled and prayed, hundreds of thousands of members of Rwanda's Hutu ethnic majority were hacking to death nearly a million of their minority Tutsi and moderate Hutu countrymen on the orders of an extremist Hutu government.

Nearly all of the Rwandan genocide's large-scale massacres took place in churches, sometimes with the complicity of church leaders. When their betrayal became known, many in this heavily Christian country lost their faith.

Now, a decade on, many Rwandans say they have experienced a resurrection of faith. Hundreds of new charismatic churches are springing up, conversions to Islam are on the rise, and many are even finding ways to make their peace with the churches that failed to offer them sanctuary a decade ago.

"We did not give up on God," Rumanyika says. "Today more people are getting closer to God, because they are asking themselves, 'Why did we survive? We are not righteous; we did not deserve it.' So we become even stronger with God."

Ali Uwimana agrees. A mildly observant Roman Catholic before 1994, he, like Rumanyika, was disgusted with the behavior of church leaders during the genocide. Many of Mr. Uwimana's relatives died in their parish church in Kibungo, 40 miles from the capital.


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