Catching Jesus on the Big Screen


Amahoro Stadium in Kigali can hold 50,000 people. This past Sunday it was filled to the hilt when a group of Rwandan churches came together to celebrate the first ever “Thanksgiving Day.” The freshly minted celebratory day was billed as an opportunity for the already extremely religious Rwandans to give special thanks to God for, well, everything. In particular, the day was to be an opportunity to thank God that things aren’t as horrible as they were almost 20 years ago, when He apparently was out of town on other business or just couldn’t be bothered to intervene in the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994.

“When you look at what the country went through and where it is today, there’s a lot for Rwanda to be thankful to God to. God has been so kind to this nation and helped rebuild it,” James Musoni, Rwanda’s Minister for Local Government, was quoted as saying. You’d think God could have been so kind to this nation and prevented it from getting destroyed in the first place. Even this cynical atheist would have considered that a cause for some thanksgiving. But different strokes and all that…

I had expected more of a tent revival atmosphere at the event, but instead it came across as largely dull, pompous, and uninspired. All the same, everyone in the audience (minus yours truly and the few hundred other palefaces in attendance) appeared to know the words to Every. Single. One. of the saccharine gospel hymns and songs of praise that blared across the stadium. And they seemed to relish the opportunity to sing along.

Oddly, all the action (the marching band, the ecstatic choir, the visiting celebrity preacher from the D. R. Congo and his band) was exclusively focused on the dignitaries seated in the VIP section, which meant that those of us on the bleachers were reduced to watching the event on the big screen behind us.

Next Sunday, I hope to pay a visit to one of the Pentecostal churches in Kigali, in the hope of finding a service with a little more oomph.