Bishop Teemu Laajasalo’s speech in Alppila church on 11 May 2024 at the commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Rwandan Tutsi

Dear Friends,

We look today to the past; and we look today to the future. We fall silent as we sit in this church and remember the events of decades ago. And we are sitting in this church because we have come to pray for peace and goodness in the coming decades.

Rwanda offers a unique example for the whole world. The grief and suffering and death of the genocide against the Tutsi exemplified to the world the worst of what one human being’s hatred for another can do. Today, however, Rwanda is an example to the world not of anger but of reconciliation. Rwanda is an example to the world not of war but of peace. Rwanda is an example to the world not of human evil but of human beauty. Rwanda is an example not of mercilessness but of forgiveness. Rwanda is an example to the world not of the end of everything but of a new beginning for everything.

A new beginning awakens hope and vigour, enthusiasm and joy. It allows us to believe that something different from the past is possible. It allows us to dream that something much better than the present is possible and lies ahead. It allows us to imagine another reality – imagine what the world might be.

In the midst of suffering the human being yearns for another perspective. The idea of a new beginning is full of grace and blessedness. It promises that the pain we endure now will end one day, and an easier tomorrow will begin – or that a new page can be turned after all the mistakes and bad decisions we have made. A new beginning is about hope. Rwanda gives hope to the whole world.

Human new beginnings have their limits – but Christian teaching in its essence is about new beginnings that do not depend on human strength or world situations. Reconcilation and forgiveness are God’s tasks for us, but they are also God’s gifts to us. The church teaches that new beginnings have no end. Not in the midst of the sorrows of the world, not as a result of human evil, and not after the mistakes we make – new beginnings do not cease even when a human being’s life here comes to its end, for in the end new beginnings do not depend on our own strength but are a gift from God.

Dear friends, may God bless all who have suffered; may God bless all who have experienced loss; and may God bless all those good and happy days, the moments of happiness that await Rwanda in future.