When visitors to Rwanda have a moment of quiet candor one question frequently rises, “Why does Rwanda so polarize people?”
Those who blog about Rwanda leave little middle ground. They tend to be either Rwanda haters or lovers. Media establishments from both our region and around the world are no different. They seem to either seek salvation through Rwanda’s leaders, or conclude that Rwanda’s leaders are diabolical schemers.
What if the reason Rwanda is so polarizing has something to do with the oldest natural inclinations of humanity? What if Rwanda exposes our failings, and in the process we polarize? What if in our desperation we seek either a hero to emulate or a villain to blame (and in the process avoid personal responsibility)? What if Rwanda’s contemporary voices are much like those of old called prophets (those with profound moral insight and exceptional powers of expression)?
Four old voices quickly come to mind – Daniel, Shadrach; Meshach, and Abednego. The first description of them were “young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve…” They knew their mother tongue, but also the language and literature of the Babylonians. They received the best of the world’s education for three years. Whether in exile or in study they were 10 times more effective than the locals. Then they were entrusted with public civil service. Does this not sound like the both loved and hated Rwandese? Handsome, beautiful, intelligent, quick witted, multi-cultural, and well educated? Just those attributes alone will stir either esteem or jealousy.
When those attributes swing into action the results are polarizing. Our well managed technological world is still full of mystery. When we are so close to a situation that everything is comfortable we miss the ability to conceptualize ultimate reality. Paradoxically, if we don’t understand context we also misunderstand. Thus our best understandings come from this strange place of both outsider and insider. Approximately, 2,600 years ago only Daniel could explain King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. He gave glory to God for his insight, and God nurtured that insight through years of exile, study, and service.
Today, Rwanda’s seemingly small voice speaks with moral authority to world powers. Her place as both an insider and an outsider gives great insight. Many of us who cheer for Rwanda giggle as her leaders have the courage to twit back to those who think they are morally superior. Some of us from outside Rwanda wish someone from our home nation would communicate in such ways. For the wise these Rwanda insights are deeply desired. Maybe, this is one of the reasons Rwanda’s outside voice to world powers is so polarizing?
However, those vary traits, experiences, and insights which inspire also place the messengers in both fiery furnaces and lion’s dens. King Nebuchadnezzar loved Daniel’s insight when it stroked his ego. King Nebuchadnezzar’s ego was his master. Daniel was only a person to be used at King Nebuchadnezzar’s convenience. Shortly after marveling at Daniel’s wisdom King Nebuchadnezzar had the audacity to build a 30 meter statue of himself and command the world to worship his image. Three brave Jewish youthful leaders – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – refused to give any man such honor. They considered their faith and integrity far more important than the favor of man or their powerful positions. The result was a true trial by fire.
Rwanda’s outside and inside voice also invites rage for just such reasons. The powerful throughout time desire the status of gods. Prophets know their own failings well. Thus they habitually point to God and their community when honor is given to them. These prophets also revel in truth. Truth is costly and invites jealous criticism. Thankfully, history shows truth is worth the cost and prevails. For King Nebuchadnezzar his pride led to madness and a collapsed kingdom.Why does Rwanda stir such polarization? Maybe, it is because Rwanda represents in appearance, experience, words, and deeds history’s most insightful and courageous prophets?