Onesphore & Josephine Rwaje haves been wonderful friends to Rosemary & I since we first got to know them in 1997-8. Rwaje became Bishop of Byumba, in northern Rwanda, in 1991 when the diocese was created. His leadership has been outstanding through troubled times. Byumba was affected by war in the early years, as the RPF moved in from Uganda. Then the genocide happened in 1994. Following that Rwaje was immediately engaged in the rebuilding of the church and nation. Byumba diocese has seen real growth in church numbers, in its leadrs and in its engagement with social transformation. Rwaje has a wonderful sense of humour, with always a twinkle in his eye. He is deeply prayerful. He is committed to faithfully making the good news of Jesus Christ known.
He has made brave decisions. He has faced real hardships. It was an absolute honour to be present today at his intallation as archbishop. The ceremony lasted nearly 6 hours; for the second half of which the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame was present. The Archbishop of Burundi preached wittily and powerfully. The Archbishops of Kenya and Tanzania were also present; so too was Bob Duncan, Prsiding bishop of ACNA (Anglican Church in North America). I was officially representing the Archbishop of Canterbury and his letter of congratulation was welcomed and received with very warm applause. Bishops were present from across Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, United States, Canada. There were many ecumenical representatives – and around 9,000 in the congregation. The use of the football stadium at one of Rwanda’s many private universities worked well.
It is hard to convy the warmth that the Rwandans feel towards their new archbishop, and the affection they showed for the outgoing archbishop, Emmanuel Kolini. They are very different men in many ways but 1 in their passion for Jesus, the gospel, the nation of Rwanda and the Anglican communion. Both men at different times of the day said, ‘Be proud of being an Anglican.’
I am proud of being an Anglican today. I am deeply pleased to have been here standing alongside my sisters and brothers in this remarkable land. They have taught me so much over the years I have been visiting here. I am honoured to call these leaders friends. Rwaje’s task is not an easy one – being a Primate of any Anglican Province is no easy task, and comes with few thanks.