Rwanda Journal







On a Sunday Morning in Bukavu                                                                                          photographs by Lee Cantelon, c. 1994

Outside the small church the roads were clogged with Rwandan refugees, most carrying heavy burdens, the few shoddy things they could salvage from their burning villages and homes, things they desperately hoped to barter for food or shelter at the end of the exodus from the genocide that had driven them to flight. I will always remember this Sunday service. The pastor of a local church speaking bravely of redemption, forgiveness, and the hope that exists in Christ. Behind him, painted boldly on the white-washed walls of the sanctuary, was a scripture reference, 1st Corinthians, chapter one, verse eighteen. The words of this passage from Saint Paul's letter to the Corinthian church seemed most relevant.

Overcome while preaching, the pastor weeps for his congregation

This message of transformation and forgiveness during a time of unimaginable bloodshed and demonic cruelty, how could it be spoken? It was, as Saint Paul had realized then, foolishness to a world of very real pain, suffering, and death. And yet, as the first believers were discovering, this message contained "the power of God."

The power of God, Jesus teaches, is the power of love. Into this maelstrom, then, the power of God, the love of God, must and could be proclaimed. The power of God to overrule the antithetical power of darkness. To hatred, the power of God preaches compassion, the ability to care for a neighbor, even outside ethnic acceptance, to see one's life in the eyes of another. To the refugees, the power of God preaches shelter. To death, the power of God preaches resurrection.

I am writing this as Easter weekend arrives, and this final aspect of God's power stands out. In Rwanda, the hopes and dreams of an entire nation were destroyed. How could one preach the cross, the sacrifice of Jesus, among so much death. Then I realize that the message is never more applicable than during such despair.

The preaching of the cross tells us that he experienced our most terrible human agony, even to death, in order to make room for the power of resurrection. The power of new life could only be drawn from the lifeless form of God's son, and in this foolish story we are informed of God's power of love to all who are in need.


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"For the preaching of the cross is to them
that perish foolishness; but unto us which
are saved it is the power of God."

- Paul's first letter to the
Corinthian Christians (1:18)

In 1994, without official sponsorship, Lee Cantelon traveled and worked among the diaspora refugee population during the Rwanda crisis, photographing the conflict that resulted in genocide and the displacement of millions of Rwandans among the refugee camps in Zaire, Tanzania, and Rwanda. The photographs and journal entries on this site (see Hope Among the Ruins) are from his experiences in a world where, in spite of the disintegration into anarchy and death, he found "hope among the ruins." 

We can break the cycle - we can break the chain
We can start all over, in the new beginning
We can learn, we can teach,
We can share the myths, the dream, the prayer,
The notion that we can do better,
Change our lives and paths,
Create a new world.

- TRACY CHAPMAN, New Beginning




"...the weakness of God is stronger
than man's strength ."

- Paul's first letter to the
Corinthian Christians (1:25)