REACH for Rwanda

Reconciliation Evangelism and Christian Healing

REACH for Rwanda exists to serve the peoples of the Great Lakes Region of Africa in supporting their journey towards healing, reconciliation and sustainable development.

Reverend Philbert Kalisa

 Reverend Philbert Kalisa

Philbert is the director of REACH in Rwanda. He was born  to Rwandan parents who were exiled in a refugee camp in Burundi.  He was ordained in the Episcopal Church of Burundi in Gitega in 1989 but it  was while studying Theology in the UK (1993 – 1996)  that he felt called to the reconciliation ministry in Rwanda, and following a visit in 1995,  he moved to Rwanda in 1996 and started the ministry of REACH….   

In March 2010 Philbert shared through an interview about his own experience of forgiveness and reconciliation at Sutton Coldfield Baptist Church The following are extracts from this:

In your own life what have you had to forgive?

‘Forgiveness has always been a challenge before and after I became a Christian. Being born in a refugee camp (in Burundi) with no citizenship until I was 29 yrs old was very hard to understand. In the camp only 20% of the children survived, 80% died many from malnutrition. Even when I became a Christian I could still not understand - why were my grandparents killed, why did my parents have to flee, and the aftermath of being a refugee…So the question was  ‘how can I forgive those who made me like that?’ It became a big issue and the time I forgave was when I saw the terrible things happening in Rwanda when I visited the country. I lost some relatives and I saw a lot of suffering of orphans and widows and people were killed in the church and when I saw that, I said I am not gong to live in this country I will never go to this country. But I had to repent later. God told me to go to Rwanda but before that I had to forgive. I now see forgiveness as an obligation, a must, and there is no way I could do what I am doing today without that forgiveness. I had to forgive myself for not understanding others, my community, those who killed my grandparents, my relatives even though I didn’t know them. God gave me the power to forgive. Forgiveness is not something that really came from my own intellect or wisdom but from God. I cannot claim that I forgave without the power of the Holy Spirit.’

How would you describe reconciliation?

‘Reconciliation means mending relationship. It means restoration, bringing back a relationship which has existed. Reconciliation is bringing back those two parties, individuals or communities to accept one another and continue to walk the same journey they used to walk before they were divided. It is what God did for human beings when we alienated ourselves from Him and He sent Jesus to reconcile us to Himself.’ Reconciliation comes with a cost.

We understand the need to forgive but to go back and be reconciled as though it hadn’t happened – why is this important? Why can’t we stop at forgiving – why do we need have to rebuild a relationship?

‘When you live with hate it is like living with poison inside you. When a snake bites you it leaves venom inside you and eventually you will die if you don’t see a doctor. Living an unforgiven life was killing my soul, I was unproductive, I couldn’t think of anything else. Living with hate you become victimised twice. You are victimised because of the loss and as a victim of the hate – you are miserable. You want revenge. When someone hits you want to hit back and you think if you don’t hit back you are weak and that revenge will make me better. But – it you kill a snake after it has bitten you, the venom remains in your body. The venom must come out for you to be free. That’s when you can experience God’s love and how God can use you to help your enemy. They can experience God’s love through the victim and can be reconciled. Reconciliation is fundamental to the Christian life.