By Aleksandra Szymczak
In just 100 days, 16 years ago, 800,000 people were murdered in the Rwandan genocide. In this Year of Mercy, a Polish missionary who has spent the past 30 years in the country is working hard to plan this fall’s first African Congress on God’s Mercy to be held in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.
Father Stanislaw Filipek, SAC, spoke with the international Catholic charity about the crucial legacy of Sister Faustina Kowalska, the apostle of Divine Mercy.
The missionary said: “Christ revealed Himself to Sister Faustina between the two World Wars. At a moment of deep hopelessness when people were afflicted with tragedy after an evil that was done, exactly in this very moment, out of the deepest hopelessness when everything was lost, ruined, God revealed Himself as merciful. God can fix it all. He can transform evil into good. We are being constantly invited to learn this, and this is the leitmotif of our pastoral work in Rwanda.”
The devotion to God’s Mercy in Rwanda, said the priest, “was sown into fertile ground, because in this post-war context a great question arose: How to talk about forgiveness? In Rwanda I often hear this question: ‘who should forgive first?’ There is no easy answer, but I keep repeating: he, who is wiser, he, who is closer to God, he should learn to forgive.
“The idea of God’s Mercy spread all over Rwanda in a quite simple way. The Pallottines in France published a small brochure on the Devotion to God’s Mercy including the Rosary of Mercy, Sunday of Mercy, the Hour of Mercy, etc. We translated it into Kinyarwanda, one of the official languages of Rwanda and the message spread quickly. At some point the bishops started asking, ‘What is this all about, this God’s Mercy?’ They didn’t know and they were afraid it was some kind of sect.”
The Pallottines in 2008 proposed to Rwanda’s Episcopal Conference to take responsibility for the movement and it has since grown rapidly; it now features national chaplains, as well as a national committee of Divine Mercy Groups; and now the first African Continental Congress on God’s Mercy will be held Sept. 9-15, 2016. Supported by Aid to the Church in Need, the theme of the meeting is “God’s Mercy as a source of hope for the New Evangelization of the African Continent.”
“After the tearing of a society apart by genocide, war and mourning the victims, we see clearly that God’s Mercy might be the answer—an antidote to all this evil, by which people are afflicted,” concluded Father Filipek.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)