COI Gazette – 15th September 2017

Prayer for our land


Divine Healing Ministries has recently been involved in organising special days of prayer to help people nd God’s peace.

This initiative follows many years of encouraging and gathering Christians from across the Churches to pray at key periods: for peace, for the renewal and revival of the Christian faith in our land and for breakthrough at times of political instability.

These most recent days of prayer originated with a vision and plan from Billy Moore, a lay reader in Lisburn Cathedral.

Billy is responsible for outreach work in the Hillhall Estate. He had a vision of a simple but profound opportunity for people across the land to pray and lay down their burdens before the cross. Br David Jardine of Divine Healing Ministries felt that this vision was a natural continuation of the previous seven years of prayer for the renewal and revival of faith in the land, organised by Divine Healing Ministries.




It was in 2004 that I rst met Antoine Rutayisire in Rwanda. I was there as part of a seven-person team from CMS Ireland. The Anglican Bishop of Kibungo, in eastern Rwanda, had invited us to lead a residential training week for his clergy.

Our task was to teach on subjects such as leadership, development and reconciliation. Everywhere we went, and in all the people we met, the scars of the 1994 genocide were never far from the surface.

It is a brutal fact that during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda the machete was most often the weapon of choice. In the space of 100 days approximately one million people were murdered there. Perpetrators were not strangers. Murder, rape and maiming were committed by fellow citizens. It was quite literally a case of neighbour against neighbour. On occasion, it was even family member against family member.

The sheer horror and scale of the genocide was brought home to us by a visit to Nyarabue church, an unremarkable looking redbrick building. Set in a village in the hills of eastern Rwanda, it was a place to which thousands of people had fled in 1994. Their reasoning was simple. As it was a church it would provide a place of refuge for people fleeing the killing. In a country and at a time when neighbour was turning against neighbour it seemed to offer one of the few places of safety. Such was not to be the case.

Over a short space of time the church and its grounds became thronged with terrified people. It was then that someone gave word to the militias. What followed was an attack on the church in which over 25,000 people were murdered. What should have been a refuge became a mass killing ground. Some of those who ought to have been protectors were in fact the betrayers.

When I met him in 2004, Antoine Rutayisire was vice- chair of the Rwandan National Unity and Reconciliation Commission. Since then, he has been ordained as an
Anglican clergyperson. His own father had been murdered in ethnic violence some years prior to the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The Commission had been set up to foster unity and reconciliation among the people of Rwanda who had experienced long periods of bad governance characterised by divisions, discrimination, human rights abuses and acts of violence. After the tragic genocide of 1994, the establishment of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission was made even more necessary.

The year after we met, Rutayisire visited Northern Ireland for a week to speak at a variety of meetings. He spoke at a diocesan conference in Derry and Raphoe on the theme of reconciliation. He also spoke to community groups, led a university seminar and spoke at a variety of other forums on the subject. My job, during his visit, was to drive him from meeting to meeting. I heard him speak many times that week – no imposition as he was one of the most compelling speakers I had ever listened to. What struck me during my visit to his country, and in listening to him, was the unambiguous commitment to reconciliation by all layers of Rwandan society. Building peace was a matter of urgency.

At his very last event I asked a question that had been forming in my mind during the week. The question was this – why did Rwanda seem much further forward in its process of peace and reconciliation than we did in Northern Ireland? What he said was essentially this: “Rwanda is one of the poorest nations in the world. If we do not find a way of living together then we will not be able to survive to do otherwise.” He seemed to be saying that fighting was a luxury Rwandans quite literally could not afford – on so many levels.

As I listened to his reply it caused another question to form in my mind – what would happen to our own peace process if the money ran out?

Twelve years on that still seems like a relevant question!


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Letter to the Editor

Same-sex marriage debate

ANDY BOAL’S letter in the Gazette dated 11th August is interesting, with a considerable amount of truth about our sinful habits, whether members or not of the Church.

A Christian is surely someone who is a disciple of Jesus Christ, but still a sinner. However, the Christian
sinner makes confession of their sin(s), repents again and again if necessary, seeks God’s forgiveness and finds that God comes to the rescue with incredible grace and love.

I imagine, I and, most other people have several (if not more) sins that need continual forgiveness, and for which I trust in God for forgiveness and continual improvement. It is easy to keep indulging in ‘self-interest’, who doesn’t? But “men who have sex with men” (I Corinthians 6: 9) know exactly what sin they are indulging in and when. As sinners, we must continually repent, seek forgiveness each time we let God down and  move inexorably towards stopping.

Disciples are not perfect, but they are serious about God’s business in their personal lives, as they are about God’s business in the life of the world.

Colin Hall-Thompson (The Revd)


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