Generous Orthodoxy  

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Bishop of Rwanda weighs in

According to the Church Times (of England), the Archbishop of Rwanda, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini, has commanded All Souls, Chicago (a schismatic parish now theoretically under his jurisdiction), to cancel its invitation to Paul Rusesabagina, central figure in the movie Hotel Rwanda and recipient of the American Presidential Medal of Honor.

Say what?

The post-movie career of Mr. Rusesabagina has been complicated. He had to flee Rwanda with his family after the genocide, because he had made so many enemies. There is bad blood between Rusesabagina and the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. Rusesabagina has accused Kagame of leaning toward the corrupt policies typical of so many African leaders. On the other hand, Rwanda today is being touted in the United States as an economic success story, with Kagame leading the way.

As a close watcher of Rusesabagina, insofar as I am able to be, and as an admirer of the wisdom found in his book An Ordinary Man (see earlier blogs on this subject), I am suspicious. Rusesabagina is not a perfect human being, and he may be hoping for a triumphal return to Rwanda himself, but is it not likely that, as he suggests, Kagame is playing under the table in order to promote economic investment in his country?

But that is not the main point. Imagine an American congregation being told by a Rwandan bishop that they must cancel an invited speaker because of possible strain between Church and State in Rwanda. Strain between church and state in Rwanda??? Can this be believed? If there had been at least a little "strain between church and state in Rwanda" when the genocide was gaining momentum, maybe some lives could have been saved.

Surely this is one of the most sinister bits of fallout from the schismatic Episcopal movement so far. Not to glorify American values unduly, but this is surely one of the most unAmerican of all possible eventualities. More, insofar as American freedom of speech is greatly to be cherished by Christians (try being a Christian in Iraq right now), it seems beyond preposterous for a Rwandan archbishop to be dictating to the American church in this way.