On February 23, 2005, Sherry and I had the privilege of attending a lecture given by Paul Rusesabagina, the man whose heroism is portrayed in the recent film Hotel Rwanda.

Rusesabagina is a Hutu, one of the two main ethnic groups in Rwanda. His wife Tatiana comes from the other group, the Tutsi. The Hutus are believed to have settled in central Africa sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D. The Tutsis arrived later-they began to migrate to the central Africa from Ethiopia about four hundred years ago-but they eventually became the rulers of the region.

Over the first half of the twentieth century, tension between the two groups was exacerbated by the policies of German and Belgian colonial rulers, who forced the people to carry ethnic identity cards and allowed only Tutsis to gain higher education and hold positions of authority. Since 1959, when a Hutu government took over in Rwanda, ethnic strife has frequently erupted into violence, most notably in 1994.

On April 6, 1994, Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was killed when his plane was shot down over the airport in the capital city of Kigali. Blaming the Tutsis for the incident, a Hutu militia began killing all the Tutsis they could find.

At the time Rusesabagina was the general manager of the Diplomate Hotel in Kigali, owned by the Belgian Sabena company. When all of Sabena's other managers in Rwanda fled the country, he was placed in charge of the Hotel Mille Collines, where he and his family took refuge along with over 1200 others.

As Rwanda descended into chaos (an estimated 800,000 were killed over a period of 100 days), Rusesabagina worked tirelessly to protect the refugees at the Mille Collines. He used every resource at his disposal, including his skill at negotiation, his connections in Europe, and, when necessary, bribery.

There were many close calls during those 100 days. On April 23, Rusesabagina was awakened at 6 A.M. and ordered to evacuate the hotel by a lieutenant from Rwanda's Department of Military Intelligence. Finding the hotel surrounded by military and militia, he and others at the hotel telephoned Sabena and other contacts abroad. Soon a colonel from the National Police arrived to end the siege.

Despite constant threats, Rusesabagina never gave in. In the end, his family and all the rest of the 1268 refugees were rescued. Today he works to raise world awareness of Africa's problems in the hope that further episodes of genocide can be averted.

Rusesabagina has maintained that he is not really a hero, saying that he only did what anyone would do under the circumstances. But those who are familiar with what happened in Rwanda in 1994 recognize that his courage was extraordinary. At the beginning and end of his lecture at Miami University, Rusesabagina received a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience of several hundred people.

Sadly, there were others in Rwanda who might have saved many lives but chose not to do so. One of these was Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, a Seventh-day Adventist leader in the southern part of Rwanda. The contrast between Ntakirutimana's conduct in 1994 and that of Paul Rusesabagina is striking. There are some 350,000 Seventh-day Adventists in Rwanda, making that denomination one of the largest Protestant churches in Rwanda. But instead of trying to use his influence to protect the Tutsi Adventists who sought refuge with him, Ntakirutimana chose instead to participate in the genocide. Today he is serving a prison sentence after being convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2003.


In This Issue

Thankfully, most of us will never have to endure a crisis like the one faced by Paul Rusesabagina and Elizaphan Ntakirutimana in 1994. All of us, however, can choose to make a difference in the lives of those around us. For example, this issue of Grace and Knowledge includes an article about archaeologists Michael and Neathery Fuller, whose work at Tell Tuneinir, Syria, has helped Syrian Christians learn more about the lives and customs of their forefathers.

Some of the biggest choices that many of us face involve our response to the calling of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In this issue, Australian Christian Ernie Klassek tells the story of his spiritual journey. Ernie's decision to walk with God led him in some unexpected directions and taught him and his family valuable lessons, some of which he relates in his article.

No one's life is an unbroken string of successes; we all face setbacks along the way. But we can take comfort in the knowledge that God, who "began a good work" in us, "will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil 1:6, NIV). Since God does not give up on us, we should not give up on ourselves. This may be one of the messages intended by the original version of the sixteenth chapter of Mark's gospel, which apparently ended in verse 8 with the frightened silence of three female disciples of Jesus. (See the article "Lessons from the `Sudden Ending' of Mark's Gospel" on page 3 of this issue.) Although Jesus' followers were initially fearful, they went on to powerfully proclaim the truth of the resurrection.

Speaking of carrying things on to completion, this issue of Grace and Knowledge also includes the eleventh and final installment in our series on the Apocrypha. We are grateful to Jared Olar for his diligent efforts in preparing this significant series of articles. These articles provide important background information for our continuing study of the New Testament and the history of the Second Temple period.

Doug Ward


Issue 18


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On 06 Mar 2005, 18:32.