On August 11, 2014, preacher Rick Warren, announced a historic and unprecedented gathering of pastors and church leaders from all 54 African nations. Other church leaders would come from all over the world to be part of this continental event.This gathering was to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, in August 2015.
The main purpose of the August 2015 conference was to showcase Rwanda’s development achievements. As Warren explained back in 2014, the world had to see the impressive growth, development and progress Rwanda and its churches had made. “I have been working with and watching the churches of Rwanda for nearly 10 years, and I believe now is the time for them to be a model to the world,” Warren stated. “I believe the secret to Middle East peace is in Rwanda,” said Warren. “World leaders should be studying Rwanda. This should be the model.”
Rick Warren had a lot more to say about why he was planning to host a historic conference in Rwanda in August 2015. In his own words, “most nations are validated by their strength in exports; Rwanda can become famous for exporting leadership…Rwanda should be the leadership and innovation capital of the continent of Africa. That is why I am calling leaders from across the continent to come to Rwanda next year to learn. The strength of Rwanda is not in the ground; it’s in the people.”
There was one problem.
The August 2015 conference never happened. Further, Rick Warren was a no show in Rwanda on February 20, 2016 at the annual prayer he normally attends.
It appears that Rick Warren is facing opposition from members of his Saddleback Church, unhappy with Warren’s relationship with Paul Kagame.
In one particular incident, some American religious groups began to actively reach out to Saddleback Church members, and explained Kagame’s politics and violence especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These religious groups set up a website targeting members of Saddleback Church with messages such as these:
“Saddleback Church members, we are so glad that you came to this site, because we really want to talk to you as brothers and sisters in Christ…we love you, and we are very sad to tell you, your church is deeply hurting the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pastors and churches, Christians of all shapes and sizes, are being killed because of something your church is doing, and the sad part is that you don’t know it is happening. You mean well, but not understanding the culture and politics of Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo has led your church to do things we know you don’t mean to do. We all want our brothers and sisters everywhere in the world to know we care and love them right?
6,000,000 Congolese have died since 1996 in a war over minerals that gets very little attention in America. Saddleback is publicly and materially supporting men who are causing and exacerbating this conflict. While meaning to do good, your good intentions are being used to hurt your own brothers and sisters in Christ.
We know it is hard to believe and we know you love your church and Pastor Rick Warren. That is why we need your attention and your willingness to look at the sobering evidence. Perhaps you can help turn the hearts and minds of your leaders to help with this situation, and God will be glorified in that change of heart.
For the last three years we have reached out to Pastor Rick Warren and your missions pastor, Bob Bradberry, and they haven’t heard us. They are good men, who we believe would want to do what is right IF they understood what they are supporting. According to Matthew 18, we are now taking it to you, the members of Saddleback Church, to see if you can help your pastors make Saddleback a greater force for good in Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo.
This site has been put up just to reach out to you as fellow Christians and ask “can we talk?” Can you hear what we are telling you here on this site? Can you read the articles and watch the videos posted here and respond in a Jesus-like way to the suffering of your Congolese brothers and sisters we have documented? We hope you can. A lot of wonderful men, women, and children in The Democratic Republic of Congo are depending on you.”
Could it be that Rick Warren, as a result of domestic pressure, has fallen off Kagame’s bandwagon? We wait and see.
About the author:
David Himbara is an educator, political economist, and author based in Toronto, Canada. He teaches and works in the field of development and competitiveness.