I spent the weekend in Vancouver with Gato Munyamasoko of Rwanda. He was in Canada to receive an honorary doctorate from Acadia University. This recognition comes after he was the recipient of the Baptist World Alliance Human Rights Award in 2015.
Gato’s vocation is peace making. He faces criticism and threats from people who do not want evil deeds to be exposed. Yet peace is an impossible illusion apart from truth, confession, and forgiveness. Twenty-two years have passed since the Tutsi genocide and its immediate aftermath. Survivors still ask questions about where the bodies of loved ones were buried.
Gato believes in God’s grace in a wounded world. He is stubbornly optimistic that attitudes can be changed. He is courageous in calling to repentance men who have committed atrocities and people who harbour ethnic enmity. He invests time with young people because they are the future of Rwanda.
Gato’s personal history was part of the preparation for this demanding vocation. His parents fled Rwanda in 1959 during a period of government sponsored violence against the Tutsi people. He was raised in the ethnically volatile area of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo during the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. As a follower of Jesus, Gato felt called to return to Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. He initially became the headmaster of a secondary school in an area where Interahamwe squads made incursions from refugee camps in the DRC. I tell one of Gato’s stories in Seed Falling on Good Soil.
Gato joined The Sharing Way in 2007 as director of development projects in Rwanda and coordinator of peace building and reconciliation ministries in East Africa. He worked with church partners in Kenya, the DRC, South Sudan, and, of course, Rwanda. We worried constantly about his safety. We knew he faced danger because of his work. Gato was never intimidated.
Jesus said: “Blessed are the peace makers for they will be called children of God. Gato is certainly one of God’s beloved children.