30 Years Later: What Can We Learn from Rwanda?

By Jim Kenaston Published on April 12, 2024

As Rwanda pauses to mourn the genocide that began 30 years ago this week, we might consider whether the identity politics of our day is paving the way for a similar time of tragedy on our shores. There has been talk of another hot civil war here in the U.S. in anticipation of a strong reaction to whatever our election results bring later this year.

There are deep divisions within our population, much of which have been fueled by identity politics. This was the case leading into the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Much like we saw there, radicals of our day seek to exacerbate ethnic divisions, pursuing retribution for perceived past wrongs, hoping to secure political power and control.

Our modern-day revolutionaries hold to a materialistic worldview in which no transcendent God stands above the State as righteous judge. Whoever is in power is right, and the end of securing power and control justifies any means. This worldview, notably embraced by Marxists, led to the slaughter of untold millions in the twentieth century. It’s an ideology in which “justice” is based on envy and revenge.

Not Just Rwanda

These motivations and the pursuit of power lay at the root of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Germany’s Third Reich of the 1930s and 1940s, the rise of communism in China 1949, and countless other power moves through the second half of the twentieth century.

By 1994, we in the West imagined ourselves enlightened and beyond such moral setbacks. With the United Nations serving as the world’s conscience and peace-enforcement arm, we thought we could put such times of atrocity behind us everywhere. Rwanda proved us wrong.

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So here we are, anticipating further turmoil in our own country. A Marxist ideology has infiltrated institutions and continues to foment envy-based divisions among us, often along ethnic lines. What can we learn from Rwanda?

It is illegal to discuss ethnicity there now. As we consider that reality, perhaps we’ll want to avoid replicating the circumstances that led to such an environment. Yet here in the United States, many seem able to focus only on their perception of themselves as victims, often based on their ethnicity.

Only One Redemptive Path

If we’re to avoid continuing down the road Rwandans once took, the Bible offers a viable alternative: finding our identity in Christ as forgiven sinners. Rather than animate our envy with unappeasable anger, we can choose to live in gratitude for what God has done for us in Christ, seeking reconciliation with those who have hurt us, extending forgiveness as we have been forgiven. In Christ, we can live redeemed lives while investing in a more fully redeemed future.

For an example of this, we can look to the people of Rwanda, where in the spirit of the Apostle Paul, there is now neither Hutu nor Tutsi. Likewise for us, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) If we are to avoid the tragic consequences that have followed the Marxist-inspired revolutions of the past, we would be wise to adopt this same perspective.

Hopefully many within our culture will repent of our envy-driven ideologies in favor of this Christ-centered perspective. The latter is our only redemptive and healing path forward.


Jim Kenaston graduated from Messiah College with a B.A. in History (1983) and from Miami University with an M.En. in International Environmental Affairs (1990). In his writing, Jim hopes to offer encouragement to fellow Christians, or a constructive word of challenge to non-Christians, as he seeks to follow Christ with integrity through these times.

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