This post was written by Dr. Greg Burch, Chair of the Global Studies Department and Director of the Global Development & Justice program at Multnomah University. Learn more about the Global Studies program here, and learn more about the Global Development & Justice program here.
This summer, students in our online MA in Global Development and Justice (MAGDJ) program came from around the world to join together for classes in Rwanda. The trip was made possible in part by our partnership with Transformational Initiatives. Thirteen graduate students and two Multnomah professors, along with a host of friends in Rwanda, participated in the courses and learned from community leaders and organizations throughout the country, including These Numbers Have Faces, World Relief, Africa New Life Ministries, and Iteams, a refugee ministry.
Another organization we learned from was Arise Rwanda Ministries (ARM), a nonprofit led by executive director John Gasangwa. ARM works in a community of 25,000 people on the edge of beautiful Lake Kivu in Rwanda. John was raised in a refugee camp as a child in Uganda, but moved to Rwanda shortly after the genocide in 1994. Today he leads this organization, which consists of a number of community-based projects, including clean water wells, a women’s CO-OP, a high school for 300 students, several pre-schools, and infrastructure improvements. Transformation usually happens slowly, but this community is positively leaping forward — and we are grateful to learn from them. John and ARM are just one example of the many organizations visited as part of our experiential, field-based classes in international development and justice work.
One of the more profound encounters during our trip was our time with Alice and Emmanuel. Alice is a victim of the 1994 genocide; she lost her baby and almost her own life. But she graciously taught us the power of forgiveness by sharing her story with us. Emmanuel, the perpetrator of crimes committed against Alice, taught us about the power of confession. Together, they demonstrated the miracle of reconciliation and transformation that is found in Christ. After serving time for his sentencing, Emmanuel is now a different person due to his relationship with Christ. God has remarkably brought healing to them as neighbors. They now speak about their experiences and promote peace and reconciliation throughout the country.
Regarding Alice and Emmanuel, MAGDJ student Lana Perepechaev wrote the following in her journal: “Absolutely mind-blowing, seemingly IMPOSSIBLE stories! Proof that love and beauty exist… it’s a new story for Rwanda: a killer transformed, taking full ownership for his actions… a mutilated lady forgives fully…it’s mind-blowing! This makes me cry… hearing Emanuel’s transformation is by far the greatest miracle I ever witnessed… I don’t think even seeing a dead man raised could top that.”
After completing their two week “contextual residency,” MAGDJ students move into their online courses. The residency occurs at the beginning of their program, providing the cohort an opportunity to develop significant relationships that will carry them through their 18-month, accelerated program. Many of them will be back together as a group for graduation in December of 2019.
Pastor Anastase, who is part of the peace and reconciliation ministry that facilitated the visit with Emmanuel and Alice, told our cohort on one occasion: “There is flavor to life when you do it in community.” This trip truly provided a rich time of togetherness and, at the end of our time together, the students chose to name their cohort “Ubumwe,” which means that very thing.
Next year’s program residency will take place in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in late May of 2019. Applications are now being accepted. Learn more about applying to the online MAGDJ program.