Nyamata Genocide Memorial, Rwanda
Nyamata Genocide Memorial, Rwanda

Scripture Reading: Exodus 15:1-18    

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which began in April of 1994. It has been estimated that as many as one million people were killed in this mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu by members of the Hutu majority in the midst of the Rwandan Civil War.

Among the narratives and facts that have been circulating in the retrospective news coverage of this anniversary, I have been most intrigued by the reality that the majority of the current Rwandan population was born after the genocide. This means that most Rwandans only know about it through the stories of their elders and the lasting effects of this traumatic event in their nation’s history and contemporary situation. It is fascinating to think about how this story is told and how it will continue to be interpreted and reinterpreted for new generations.

The story of ancient Israel’s liberation and exodus from Egyptian bondage is another defining story passed down from generation to generation, told and retold by people who were not actually there. It too contains genocide and ethnic cleansing. But in this case, it is God who either carries out the killings or commands the people to do it in God’s name.

How do we tell and interpret this troubling episode of our sacred story? Do we gloss over the negative parts and focus on the uplifting themes of liberation? Or do we push back and name these acts of terror for what they clearly are? Do we sing along with Moses and the Israelites, or do we refuse to join this particular chorus?

In light of the genocides we have known in the twentieth century and continue to witness in the twenty-first, how we tell our story and how it shapes our lives very much matters.

God of life, as I search the scriptures for inspiration and guidance, give me wisdom to know when I should not be bound by the songs and stories of the past and when it is time to sing a new song. Amen.

This appears as today’s Fourth Church Daily Devotion.

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit johnvest.com.

Reader Interactions


  1. John — This is a thoughtful, powerful devotion. Thank you so much for the care and concern for all aspects of Christianity and the world that is so evident in your post.

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