|Rev. Justin Hogg and Rev. Ernest Mahoro|
Rev. Ernest Mahoro presented Columbians with a rare opportunity on the evening of Tuesday, August 31st. It was a chance to listen to the story of a man from the other side of the world, someone who has seen the devastation of genocide, the blight of poverty, and the instability of a weak government. The event was called “Rwanda: AIDS, Genocide, and the Church, an evening with Rev. Ernest Mahoro.” In the Friendship Room at Daniel Boone Public Library, a group of fifty people gathered to hear his story and ask questions.
The presentation began with Rev. Mahoro explaining that he is present in Columbia as part of a trip to visit his friends in Fulton, namely members of the Rwanda Community Partnership. He is currently residing in Ambridge, PA, while he attends Trinity School for Ministry to receive a Masters of Arts in Religion. He is married and has four children. Rev. Mahoro hopes that his visits will help form HIV/AIDS associations that can positively influence Rwanda.
Rev. Mahoro continued his presentation by addressing the church’s role in Rwanda’s social services. He said that in Rwanda “the church deals with life holistically, not just the spiritual but the physical.” Mahoro asserted that the reason that the church must take care of people’s physical needs is to follow the example of Jesus. “Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, and visited the poor. He gave his whole life to the people of his time,” Mahoro continued. “Our community is poor, and people need food, clothes, and shelter. The church helps people meet those needs.”
The 1994 genocide left Rwanda’s population impoverished and the government unstable. Loss and depravity were widespread, and though the people have come a long way since then, there is still much to be done to improve Rwandans’ quality of life. Mahoro addressed this topic, speaking about the need for education, HIV/AIDS awareness, and responsible family planning. Mahoro said, “If the church works properly, it is helping the poor. The church is a healer.” He stressed the importance for care of widows and orphans. Because of the post-genocide devastation, many orphans grow up to be prostitutes if they are girls or they take to the streets if they are boys. This only enhances the HIV/AIDS crisis. Mahoro noted that while the government’s response of educating people about condoms was helpful, the church also has a responsibility to teach people about living a sexually moral life and refraining from sexual intercourse until marriage.
Mahoro also addressed the need for responsible family planning in Rwanda. He said that in Rwanda, “poor people have lots of kids because they don’t work. Food, medicine, and shelter are a problem because these people cannot afford to take care of a big family. The church is encouraging people to think responsibly about their family size.”
Vocational training is lacking for most Rwandans, and only 25% of the population go to high school while the rest return home and do not work. Much of Rwanda’s social and vocational education is the work of the church. The lack of education contributes to the continuing poverty in much of Rwanda, and Mahoro encouraged people to come to Rwanda and work as teachers.
Rev. Mahoro also asserted that the role of the church is not purely physical either, and the church has an important place in the spiritual lives of Rwandans as well. Due to the social problems resulting from the genocide and the AIDS crisis, many Rwandans feel helpless, hopeless, and lost. The suicide rate is high, and many people live in a state of chaos. Mahoro said, “The church has the power to tell people who are desperate that there is a chance to live again. People come to church, and they dance, they sing, they cry, and they receive hope.”
Reconciliation is one of the priorities of the church in Rwanda. Many people live among neighbors who killed their family in the genocide, and the work of the church is to help people forgive and reconcile with their neighbors. Mahoro said, “The church brings people together to talk, share problems, and pray. Peace and reconciliation are keys to unity in Rwanda. People must learn to trust each other and forgive each other in order for them to live at peace with each other. The church helps them do this.”
Rev. Mahoro concluded his presentation by asking for help. He said, “God has blessed America. You have more than you need. As brothers and sisters created in God’s image, we need to help communities outside of America.” He stressed the need for teachers and medical workers, and he noted that the government encourages communities to work with churches and pastors. Rev. Mahoro finished his speech with the exhortation to “do good—in all places, at all times, to all the people you can.”
If you have questions about how you can help, or if you have questions regarding Rev. Mahoro's visit, please contact email@example.com.