Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

If you haven't read We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch, I'd highly recommend it. He gives an amazing account of the genocide in Rwanda. It's hard reading, but something that Christians need to hear (since "Christians" contributed to the problem at many levels). Maybe later I'll write more about sections of this book that moved me most. I haven't seen Hotel Rwanda yet, but want to go as soon as we can. Has anyone seen it yet? What were your reactions? Thanks to Dr. Jim for passing along these words of Brian McLaren from Sojourners: Hotel Rwanda and The Passion of the Christ by Brian McLaren Maybe it's because I spent time last summer in Burundi, the poorer twin sister of Rwanda that shares a similar history, tribal makeup, geography, culture, and terrifying undercurrent of genocide. Maybe it's because while I was there, I met Anglican priests serving in Rwanda who told personal stories of the tragedies there - and their efforts to bring healing and reconciliation in the aftermath. Maybe it's because (some readers may be tempted to write me off after reading this sentence) I was so frustrated by last year's promotional hype surrounding Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ - and I was so frustrated by the movie itself, though I know many found it moving and spiritually edifying. Maybe it's because I have deep concerns about the alignment of major sectors of Christianity with "red-state Republicanism," and I worry that a kind of modernist, nationalist neo-fundamentalism is trying to claim all Christian territory as its sovereign domain. For whatever reason, when I walked out of the 2005 film Hotel Rwanda this thought wouldn't leave me: If we really had the mind and heart of Christ, this is the movie we would be urging people in our churches to see. In fact, I can't think of a more worthwhile experience for Christian leaders than to watch Hotel Rwanda and then ask themselves questions like these: Which film would Jesus most want us to see, and why? Why did so many churches urge people to see Gibson's film, and why did so few (if any) promote Terry George's film? What do our answers to that question say about us? What were the practical outcomes of millions of people seeing Gibson's film? And what outcomes might occur if equal numbers saw Hotel Rwanda - as an act of Christian faithfulness? In what sense could Hotel Rwanda actually be titled The Passion of the Christ? What do we make of the fact that a high percentage of Rwandans who participated in the 1994 genocides were churchgoers? What do we make of the fact that a high percentage of the Americans who ignored the 1994 genocides (then and now) were and are churchgoers? What kind of repentance does each film evoke in Western Christians? Why might the kind of repentance evoked by Hotel Rwanda be especially needed during these important days in history?


  • Mike,
    I have read the book and seen the movie, and walked the streets of Kigali.

    The book is a very good, journailistic approach to the events of 1994, but Gourevitch does a good job of bringing in enough historical background to provide context, if not "explanation" of the genocide.

    The movie really puts a human face on the whole thing, in a way the book didn't do for me.

    Another excellent resource, if people want to try to understand what happened is PBS Frontline's "The Ghosts of Rwanda." It is equal parts enlightening and infuriating. The fact that the same things are happening in Sudan, while everyone said "We won't let another Rwanda happen again" is sad and wrong.

    One quote from the movie (I don't think it will spoil it for you, because its in the trailers) that I think is too accurate, is from Joaquin Phoenix's character. He said:

    "People will see this, go 'Oh my God, that's horrible,' and go right back to eating their dinners."

    How can we let such things move us emtionally, but not physically, calling us into action?

    Sorry this was so long, but both the book and the movie are MUSTS.

    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 2/15/2005 09:40:00 AM  

  • I watched the movie last weekend and was incredibly moved by it. It stuck with me for days. The genocide happened when I was in college and I remember seeing it on the news thinking, "How sad" but am ashamed to admit I didn't think about it much further than this.

    It is amazing what the love and compassion of one man can accomplish. I would definitely recommend it.

    By Blogger elizabeth, at 2/15/2005 11:05:00 AM  

  • Read the book (on Greg Kendall-Ball's recommendation, I might add); saw the movie, too. (I love living in a "selected city" like Atlanta!)

    I read the article over on Brandon Thomas' blog before I saw it posted on yours. So I'll just paste in my comment that I left on Brandon's blog!

    Here goes:

    Man, that McClaren article is SMOKIN'!! "Hotel Rwanda" was my movie of the year, too -- "Passion of the Christ" not withstanding. I was deeply moved at the change in this very ordinary man's heart -- how he saved over 1200 lives by loving his neighbors, by taking the next right step even though he didn't know how it would end up (makes me think of Nehemiah), and by doing his best at what he did best: being a good hotel manager. There are many, many lessons of the eternal variety to learn from this amazing story.

    When the movie ended, by the way, the audience didn't move. We all just sat there pulling ourselves together. Some movies entertain you; some hit you like an ice-axe. This was more like the latter.

    I'd love to see Don Cheadle win the "Best Actor" Oscar, by the way. Probably can't stop the Jamie Foxx momentum, though.

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 2/15/2005 02:57:00 PM  

  • Mike, as you know I have read the book, and would like to amen all the good comments that have been made about it. EVERYBODY should read it. I have not seen the movie, but plan to soon. McLaren's thoughts haunt me, like most of his do. I will be thinking about that as I drive around Phoenix this week.


    By Blogger David U, at 2/15/2005 05:51:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    There is no doubt in my mind that Hotel Rwanda is the movie of the year for Christians to see. Cheadle was incredible and they did a great job with the authenticity of the scenes but most importantly they're getting a desperately needed message out - that there are people in the world that simply get left out and that just doesn't jive with our Christian world view.

    When my family and I moved back to the States 2 years ago we vowed to not forget the plight of so many of our poor friends in Africa and to return to our former hometown of Jinja to visit, help and share Christ in any way possible. Jinja has stayed close to our hearts but seeing firsthand the Rwandan churches used as slaughterhouses for hundreds of thousands of God's children has been a lasting image for us as well. We cannot and will not forget those there who were created in God's image in the exact same way as all of us Americans are created in God's image.

    In 8 days I will be boarding a plane for both Uganda and Rwanda. One week in each place. I can't wait to see my old Jinja Church friends and eat some matooke, rice and beans with them in their homes but I'm also eager to get back to Rwanda. I have taken up a collection through our new non-profit The Kibo (does that name sound familiar to you?) Group started by Mark Moore, Danny Hardman and myself and through the help of friends will take about $6,000 to give to an orphanage full of kids who lost their parents in the genocide. It is a small offering to start with but we anticipate that the Kibo Group will be a tool for much greater future acts of kindness and Christian love to the forgotten people of Africa.

    Thanks for your posting today and go see Hotel Rwanda as soon as you can. Greetings to your family. You have certainly been in our prayers since the accident.

    By Blogger Clint, at 2/15/2005 08:47:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Sunnie Rhys, at 2/15/2005 10:32:00 PM  

  • Yes, I went to see this movie based on Brian's comments on Sojourners and must agree that it is the Movie of the Year. There was a very small crowd for a matinee showing in Tyler, Texas, and at the end we were all struck silent. Having been to neighboring southwest Uganda, I was constantly flashing back to my time there during the movie. I must read the book, now.

    By Blogger Greg, at 2/16/2005 05:49:00 AM  

  • Nine months ago, Dave and Jana Jenkins left Uganda and returned to the U.S., Currently, they are serving as visiting missionaries at OCU and attending the Family of God at Quail Springs. They and their five children are anointed in many ways, but perhaps most importantly they have been anointed with a heart for world missions.

    Last week, in our Sunday school class, Dave spoke to our group of young marrieds. He spoke of his very persistent prayer that God would open doors and send a Church of Christ missionary--the first one--to Rwanda. God convicted him that he was the answer to his own prayer.

    Dave Jenkins and his family will be going to Rwanda for the first time this summer, taking with them several interns as part of an LST summer internship. I place this post, asking this community to pray for them as they make preparations to become long-term missionaries there.

    By Blogger Trey, at 2/16/2005 05:55:00 AM  

  • Have not read the book but saw the movie. The movie is excellent. Made the opening of "Mere Discipleship" by Lee Camp a little more effective and the words by Lipscomb a little more poignant.

    By Blogger happytheman, at 2/16/2005 09:36:00 AM  

  • I would vehemently disagree with anyone who made "Passion of the Christ" a litmus test for faithfulness, but it moved me powerfully both times I saw it and the memory of those images remains with me. I love McLaren, but I'm not sure why he seems to be making "Passion" and "Rwanda" an either/or issue.

    By Blogger Grant, at 2/17/2005 02:29:00 PM  

  • Steve and I went to see "Hotel Rwanda" about three weeks ago. I was not prepared for the emotional journey I would partake. That deep gut wrenching pain like I felt watching "The Passion". The one scene where they bring in bus loads of white workers and black workers and they are separated. The white workers sitting on the buses and looking at those they loved and worked with just standing looking at them. It was such an example of how Satan works his evil ways. Even the explanation of how the Hutu and Tsutsi were didvided by the Belgians years before-same people but different facial features and color. He does the same thing today always trying to divide churches, races, humanity. Don Cheadles character was like a lot of us. Just trying to do our best and not paying attention to political naysayers who are working against what our nation stands for. Trying to push anything with God in them out of our government. It made me shiver.

    By Blogger tlhanger, at 2/18/2005 08:47:00 AM  

  • It is a great movie, but it doesn't even touch the surface of the horror. i would recommend watching a Frontline documentary "Ghosts of Rwanda" which a more detailed account. You can watch it at the frontline website or buy it as i did. It is really worth owning.


    By Blogger Chris Ewing, at 2/21/2005 09:02:00 AM  

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