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“We Were a Chosen People”: The East African Revival and Its Return To Post-Genocide Rwanda

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 May 2014


This article, drawing upon primary field research, analyzes the origins and history of the East African Revival of the 1930s and its ongoing relevance and role in post-genocide Rwanda. Starting as a Holiness-inspired, Anglican movement, the Revival persisted among the Tutsi Diaspora during their exile to refugee camps in Uganda following the 1959 Hutu-led Revolution and has returned with them following the coming to power of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in 1994. The Revival, as it presently experiences a reawakening in the post-genocide church, provides the Tutsi returnees with a spiritual mechanism to explain their plight as refugees and a means by which to heal from decades of suffering. Additionally, a narrative has emerged in which they believe themselves to be a “Chosen People” who found redemption and healing in the refugee camps by embracing the revival spirit. Many Anglican returnees further believe they have been “chosen” to bring healing and reconciliation, through the revivalist tradition, to post-genocide Rwanda. While the return of the Revival tradition in the post-genocide Anglican Church offers potential benefits for Rwanda's reconciliation and recovery, the church must also abandon its apolitical inclinations and challenge the ruling regime in the name of truth, democratization, and justice.

Copyright © American Society of Church History 2014 

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35 Joe Church, “The Story of the Ruanda Mission,” 1945, MAM Papers (E8/1).

36 Robins, Tukutendereza, 4.

37 “To all Missionaries,” CMS Papers (AF3549, G3A112); Rev. P. J. Brazier, “Some Characteristics of the Ruanda Revival Fellowship,” CMS Papers (AF3549, G3A111, Subfile 9).

38 Bobby Ross, Jr., “Out of Africa: What AMIA's Exodus from Rwanda Portends for Global Christianity,” Christianity Today, December 9, 2011.

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51 Longman, Christianity and Genocide, 91–92; 195–196.

52 The exception referred to here is Alexis Bilindabagabo who was a Tutsi bishop in the Anglican Church prior to 1994. Having survived the genocide, he is presently the Bishop of Gahini. As such, he maintains a high profile, travelling widely in the United States with AMIA and elsewhere. This author has had the occasion to speak with him and he strongly endorses the Revival movement.

53 See Bilindabagabo, Alexis and Nichols, Alan, Rescued by Angels: The Story of Miracles during the Rwandan Genocide (San Diego: Acorn, 2006)Google Scholar; Kolini, Emmanuel and Holmes, Philip, Christ Walks Where Evil Reigned (Colorado Springs, C.O.: Authentic US, 2008)Google Scholar; Rucyahana, John and Riordan, James, The Bishop of Rwanda (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007)Google Scholar.

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