Three days of jubilation in Kigali! (2/3)
Friday 18th to Sunday 20th September, 2015 were three days of celebration for the Emmanuel Community due to two exceptional events – the opening of the cause for the canonization of Cyprien Rugamba and Daphrose Mukasanga, founders of the Emmanuel Community in Rwanda and the Jubilee of 25 years of the existence of the Community in Rwanda!
Second act: the Jubilee celebrating 25 years of Community !
On the following day started a more intimate part of the Weekend. Intimate, because on Saturday, September 19th there remained only the members of the Community – all the same there were still more than 1,200 of us gathered in the chapel of the Emmanuel Centre in Kigali!
There were a crowd of brothers and sisters, from all corners of the country of course, but also from neighbouring Burundi and from Kivu, a province of the DRC close to the border with Rwanda. In fact, for these brothers and sisters, whose Community Provinces were started by Rwandans, for these brothers who annually meet with Rwanda for Fraternity retreats or formation, this celebration was theirs also; they are usually with us. But it was not only them, there were other Congolese from Kinshasa and Lubumbashi etc. And that’s really beautiful, not only because they come from a long way off, but especially in the context of the active existing political tensions between the two countries – their presence is a true sign of brotherly love – a message of peace to give to the world. And then there were brothers and sisters from Europe, led by the Moderator. A delegation, which in its fraternal unity, included both today’s leaders and also witnesses of the past we were celebrating. What joy there was to live these historical moments together in brotherly love.
The day began with red-hot praise (the young people would say we were ‘mad’). But how could it be otherwise? We were so happy to be there, all together, gathered around the Lord. Alternating songs from the Green Songbook in French with those of Cyprian in Kinyarwanda or classic Rwandan or Burundian songs, this praise was a real moment of heaven. Absorbed by the rhythm and the djembes, our brothers and sisters followed one dance with another, dances of a splendid beauty, which, cramped in our white carapaces, we awkwardly try to join in. But it was beautiful! This joy that shone so brightly in our brothers is so communicative! Seeing all those smiles, so permanent on their faces, I thought of what Guy Gilbert said, “They say it’s hard to smile when you are sad, but try to be sad when you smile and you will see that is not so easy … “. And seeing all these brothers, and knowing that their daily lot is usually not nearly so easy as mine, inhabited by this permanent joy from God, I understand better. And what if I tried myself to smile at God all day, I said to myself! Or at least when I praise Him …
The party continued with the family – and what does one do as a family? Often one tells the story of the family … That is good, because in this Rwandan Community very many young people do not know the history of the Community, the history of its founding by Cyprian and Daphrose, the incredible intertwining that existed, in a deeply moving historical and geographical proximity, as the Moderator told us in the late afternoon, between the history of the Community and the history of the country – both political and religious. We were celebrating the founding of the Community 25 years previously – on 22 and 23 September 1990 the first Community WE was held in Kigali. Gathered around Cyprien and Daphrose were approximately twenty pioneers who experienced the founding of the Community. The witnesses to that time, Jean-Luc Moens, Annick Bescond and François-Xavier Ngarambe made us vibrate with joy and emotion in telling us all that. Then Jean-Marie Twabazimungu and Jean-Baptiste Ndayanbaje, in their turn, made us think about the intimacy of this emerging community that lived both wonderful graces and so strong a brotherly love, at the heart of this country which was torn in a war that was coming fast and which in a few months would lead to the horror of a tragic genocide.
One can only be struck, hearing these testimonies, of the kindness of the Lord. On hearing this incredible story, the assembly entered into a profound silence, in a meditation of reflection and thanksgiving. Yes, the Lord was really wonderful, as Cyprian said, to allow this emergence of life and joy at the heart of such a serious situation. In real fervour, the Eucharist was a time of grace which closed this morning in beauty.
But the Lord had not finished in making Himself heard. While we were about to go to lunch, a tropical downpour of extreme intensity and of rare length came on us, making any movement impossible… we could only adore now. Give to the Lord all that dwelt in our hearts during those moments. Yes, it was obvious. An hour of silent and recollected Adoration thus rounded off this beautiful morning.
he afternoon was to be charged with major spiritual moments. First of all the commitments – about a hundred brothers and sisters made their commitment – many of them young people, clinging to the Lord and animated by a desire for holiness and radical in the gift of themselves in service – this was edifying. These steps, also celebrated with the power of praise of the hymns were for each of us an occasion to be personally touched, to reflect on our own commitment and to say yes again to the Lord.
Then there were the words of the Moderator. A few weeks from the opening of the Year of Mercy by the Holy Father, how could we not see a wink from the Lord at what we were celebrating on this day and what it said to the crowd, urging our brothers to follow in the footsteps of Cyprien and Daphrose, to be themselves tireless witnesses of God’s Mercy.
The day ended in joy, in songs and dances and with an evening program where we avidly watched short videos on the two Servants of God.
The following day, more solemn in its celebrations and more open, since 3000 people thronged the Emmanuel Centre on this Sunday morning, was nonetheless very joyful, and we began anew with a praise of … ‘madness’. Everyone was in their Sunday-best and the women competed in elegance in their traditional attire which gave their dancing such a special grace.
And despite the impressiveness of the congregation (in quantity and quality – Bishops preparing for Mass, the Mayor of Kigali, etc.), everyone was invited to an hour of Adoration at the centre of this great assembly of tents, a mini Paray which had not much to envy in its big brother and which had been set up in 24 hours at the Emmanuel Centre site! What intensity in this heart-to-heart in the open air – Christ came to offer Himself to each of those who were there – there were so many of them!
The Mass, well sung by the choir, was solemn and prayerful and was followed by official speeches where all (Bishops, Mayor of Kigali, Moderator) invited us not to be satisfied with the Jubilee celebrations but to be moved by them to move forward. That is the key to joy and holiness.
In a festive atmosphere, the day then continued with many shows – all were interesting, especially a wonderful performance of traditional dances created by Cyprien and a very moving song interpreted by children of the Centre for Street Children, The CECYDAR, the centre Cyprien and Daphrose Rugamba created 25 years ago and which was named after them after their deaths. At 3.30pm the day ended with a beautiful prayer said by all.
Tired but so happy to have been given so much and for all they saw and heard, the brothers and sisters then returned to the bus station to catch the taxi-buses that would take them home and where, that night, nourished by the example of their founders, they would resume this daily evangelization which brings such beautiful fruits to the four corners of a country still so wounded.
Thank you, brothers and sisters, for the example you give us. Thank you for sharing with us a little of your daily joy and foe helping us better understand what the reality and the radical nature of our calling is – also the joy that this brings in responding with so much enthusiasm.
Murakoze. (Thank you)
– Moderator’s Delegate for Africa