By George Kalisa
The lockdown that came into force on March21, the first of its kind in post genocide Rwanda triggered different reactions ranging from anxiety to immeasurable levels of phobia in all sections of the Rwandan population. The fact that the death toll of people that succumb to the novel Coronavirus and infection cases rise every passing hour was enough to drag everyone into the equation.
Much as death remains a mysterious phenomenon, a disease without a vaccine and with a high rate of spread is a nightmare and certainly breaks the souls of all Rwandans from all walks of life. Moreover, the hard economic consequences left many, particularly the low-income earners in a precarious situation.
It was against this background that several people intentionally or otherwise did acts including making comments that did not only revive hope among Rwandans but also caused instant healing of the many souls in the country of one thousands hills.
“My wife told me to dress up for a night out! When I said it was night allowed, she said just dress up today! We seated on our balcony for a “night out”” tweeted Laurent Mbanda, the Archbishop and Primate of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda.
This is one of hundreds of comments posted on social media that induced a smile on many faces amidst adversity.
It was around seven o’clock in the evening on March29, a debate that was punctuated by love gesticulations, I guess, ensued between the Archbishop and his better-half as the man in the collar objected to an outing suggested by the visibly joyous and determined wife. Perhaps, the outing, the Archbishop had in mind was different from the surprise the wife had conceived.
Laurent, just like all Rwandans, was cock sure that an outing was impossible given the ongoing lockdown and curfew imposed by the government to prevent the spread the pillaging angel of the death (read COVID-19) eating humans indiscriminately, including babies of days old and world celebrities.
His tweet went viral and by the time I wrote this piece, it had been retweeted 249 times and like 3.4k.
Through the same platform, the Anglican Archbishop reminded Rwandans to emulate the disciples of Jesus Christ, and provide for the needy in this very time of need, each within their reach.
“Let us be kind and generous. Acts 11:29: And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren … do it through your Church structure, community leadership. Isolation is key!”
The Archbishop reminded Rwandans to observe the health guidelines recommended by health experts and the government of Rwanda in the prevention of the Coronavirus.
“(…) Remember washing hands and social distancing. Stay home!” he said a few days before he tweeted a historic tweet
Lessons from Church History
The act of Archbishop Mbanda appears comical and his comments induce a smile, indeed. But, he is not the first Christian to behave like that at the peak of great suffering. We meet many examples of Christians in the history of the Church that were happy and praised God amid great suffering including moments of deaths.
The Christian teachings uphold that we are citizens of Heaven. “We’re in the world but we’re not of the world” and thus, suffering caused by diseases, wars and other tribulations only strengthen the believers’ faith in God and bring them nearer to Him.
A number of Christians in some parts of Africa have been martyred for their conviction and work. The Namugongo martyrs in Buganda Kingdom were burnt, clubbed or put to death by other means between 1887-1887. About two hundred Christians lost their lives. Yusufu Lugalama, Mako Kakumba and Nuwa Serwanga died when they were praising God as a symbol of happiness.
The Church has always been seen carrying the needy people under its wings. Christians in the early Church provided tender care to the needy and suffering. They provided food, medicine, money and workers to feed the hungry at the times of war, famine and other natural calamities. Some of them died or have been injured while serving the needy. Just like the Rwandan Archbishop, they have been happy throughout all their adversities.
St Augustine praised God when he lost his beloved mother in spite the great wave of sorrow that surged into his heart.
Just in neighbouring Kenya, Mrs Gathenji who had been joined by hundreds of fellow Christians praised God when she had lost her husband. The act was an expression of true Christian happiness.
Ignatius of Antioch was happy in spite of tortures he had gone through before he was martyred.
Hence, the tweet of Archbishop Mbanda in one way or another was reminding Christians irrespective of their denominations and/or sects to be happy and anchor their hopes on God, the only one with the solution as well as helping those that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.