All Africa Congress Focuses on Peaceful Coexistence

In September, Rwanda welcomed more than 500 religious freedom delegates and advocates from some 30 countries to the 3rd All Africa Congress and Festival of Religious Liberty. The two-day event began September 13 under the theme, “Hope for Building a Tolerant and Peaceful Continent.” It was organized by IRLA-affiliate organization, the All Africa Religious Liberty Association (AARLA), and brought together church leaders, government officials, and religious liberty leaders and advocates at the Kigali Convention Centre in Kigali, the country’s capital.

Blasious Ruguri, chair of the AARLC organizing committee, said in his opening remarks that the event was “a call to celebrate what is most uniquely human—our conscience.” Ganoune Diop, Secretary General of the IRLA, was one of the plenary speakers at the event and he said the congress provided a “rich and productive experience for all who took part.”

The Congress ended with a five-hour religious liberty festival on September 15 that drew 30,000 people to the Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali. Special guests included the Minister in the Office of the President of Rwanda, Judith Uwizeye; Rwandan Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye; and Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya David Maraga.

In an interview after the event, Diop said one of the most poignant experiences for him was a visit attendees paid to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. This center in the hilly suburbs of Kigali commemorates the horrific 1994 civil clash between ethic groups that left an estimated 750,000 to 1 million people dead. Some 250,000 victims of the conflict are buried on the grounds of the Memorial.

Congress attendees laid a wreath at the Memorial and Diop was one of those asked to give brief remarks. In his comments, he commended Rwandans for their intentionality in pursuing the common good in the decades since the genocide, including a public process of truth and reconciliation that focused on bringing Rwanda back to one shared national identity. He challenged them to continue building a society where every person is afforded respect and dignity.


BETTINA KRAUSE
| Communication Director
International Religious Liberty Association
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