Rwanda president, inspired by U.S. church, helped turn around devastated nation’s economy

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The president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, spoke at a special service in California’s Saddleback Church to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, thanking Pastor Rick Warren and his congregation for helping rebuild the East African nation through their ministry called The PEACE Plan.

President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, right with Pastor Rick Warren commemorate the victims of the Rwandan genocide 20 years later on April 26. / Saddleback Church

President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, right with Pastor Rick Warren commemorate the victims of the Rwandan genocide 20 years later on April 26. / Saddleback Church

“We remember the more than a million lives we lost in the genocide. We honor the strength of survivors, as well as the resilience of Rwandans, that has kept our nation alive,” Kagame said at the event Saturday. …
Kagame, who is from the Tutsi ethnic group and has been in control of Rwanda since his rebel army ended the genocide, learned about Pastor Warren and his church after reading his book, The Purpose Driven Church, about 11 years ago. The President found it so moving that he wrote to Warren, seeking help in making Rwanda the first “purpose-driven” nation and the first national model of Saddleback’s The PEACE Plan.

As a result, Saddleback has sent more than 2,000 members to serve in Rwanda. Rwanda was once a Catholic-majority country. But after the genocide, evangelical churches began to grow, as sections of the clergy in the nation’s Catholic Church were accused of colluding with the killers.

“During the genocide, almost every church betrayed its divine mission,” President Kagame said, according to a release by Saddleback Church. “Rwandans sought refuge in the church only to be betrayed. But today, things are different. Thank you, Saddleback members, for providing a meaningful partnership. Faith in God is once again a sense of comfort for many Rwandans.”

Pastor Warren is a member of the Presidential Advisory Council formed by Kagame, who is officially identified as a Roman Catholic. … While his opponents accuse him of being authoritarian, Kagame is widely credited with bringing economic growth to the country, which was named the world’s top reformer in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2010.

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