By Robert Dilday
The son of Rwandan refugees who became a catalyst for peace and reconciliation among ethnic rivalries in his east African nation was recognized July 23 for his vision of “the church as a home of peace.”
Corneille Gato Munyamasoko, general secretary of the Association of Baptist Churches in Rwanda, received the Baptist World Congress’ Human Rights Award, conferred every five years since 1995.
Munyamasoko was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Rwandan parents who had fled ethnic violence in their home country in the 1950s. In 1994 as many as 1 million Rwandans were killed in tribal violence, primarily by Hutus against Tutsis. In the wake of the genocide, Munyamasoko moved to Rwanda to help rebuild the nation.
He worked to help Rwandans “to understand the causes of the genocide, to seek and to extend forgiveness and to build relationships based on the principles of justice, mercy and faith, emphasizing the need for reconciliation with God, self and others,” said BWA general secretary Neville Callam in presenting the award.
Munyamasoko launched a peace camp movement, bringing together young survivors of the genocide with those who parents were imprisoned for acts of genocide. He has been a peacemaker encouraging Rwandans “to overcome national rivalries and ethnic differences,” said Callam. That included leading pastors who had condoned acts of genocide to seek forgiveness from the survivors.
Munyamasoko also led his association of Baptist churches to combat stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, training pastors to care for those infected by the virus.
“This award is recognition of the resilience of all Rwandans,” said Munyamasoko. “The award is a great encouragement to me to continue to strive for the wellbeing of my brothers and sisters. I feel reenergized in the calling to work for peace.”