Friday, May 11, 2012

Shock and Dismay

I always take a book along to read on the airplane, and found myself surprisingly ready to digest something meaty on our flight to Rwanda.  So, I read (and possibly annoyed my seatmates with frequent excerpts from) Mirror to the Church by a Rwandan priest.  I was shocked by many insights from this book, but one I continue to  chew on has to do with colonialism.  The author traced the roots of the Rwandan genocide to the interference and political manipulation of the people by colonizers, a really damning view of Rwandan history which at first left me relieved that I wasn't a descendant of those particular colonizers.

Feeling a bit like the Pied Piper:)
Where was I when this was taught in history class?  It seems inconceivable to my 21st Century mind that any nation would have the gall to "civilize" another.  And yet, it was often legitimized "as a way to facilitate religious conversion and salvation of indigenous peoples".  As a modern day missionary, and someone of European descent, I'm starting to feel more and more implicated in what happened...  A series of disquieting emotions erupt, not unlike those I feel whenever I watch The Mission.

I'm still troubled by what I learned, but even more, I'm troubled by the ongoing ramifications of our history.  As a European background Christian, where am I (where are we?) continuing the legacy of the colonizers?    I lead a non-profit that serves newly arrived refugees from countries like Rwanda.  How do these refugees view me, considering their nation's experience with colonizers?  How do I treat them differently than my forbears did?   (Thankfully, missions around the world has radically changed and I can see how the orientation I received has prepared me for these hard questions.)  How do we create a level playing field, show respect, and honour what each person embodies- the richness of their history, the uniqueness of their culture and the fact that each one bears the image of God?  Our refugee friends are ready, eager and grateful, with SO much to contribute to our communities and our country!
I love it when God brings to light that which I've been blissfully ignorant of, and am energized by the challenge to learn, to love better and to let Him refine me from the inside out.