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Monday, September 21, 2009

Emmanuel Kolini: Unlikely Archbishop of Rwanda

Emmanuel Kolini:
Unlikely Archbishop of Rwanda

by Mary Weeks Millard
228 pages

*** About the Book ***

From the press release:
Any pastor will tell you that no church is immune to conflict, whether the issue in question is a central point of doctrine or the choice of new carpet. But imagine serving a congregation made up of both the victims and the perpetrators of the most brutal massacre in recent history. In assuming his new post as Archbishop of Rwanda in the wake of the 1994 genocides, Emmanuel Kolini faced huge challenges. How was he to turn a sick, confused, and broken society full of widows, orphans, and prisoners and their families into a reconciled, cohesive society?
This book is a brief biography of Kolini's life, an overview of the ethnic conflicts in Rwandan history, and the story of how these two came together.

*** Why I Read It ***

It was offered for review by The B&B Media Group. I'd heard of Kolini before but I knew little about him, and I was very interested to see how he handled the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. In addition, this book fits the category of Politics for the World Citizen Challenge.

*** My Thoughts - The Good ***

To me, Kolini is a fascinating and inspiring man. He is one of those people who truly puts his beliefs into action regardless of the potential consequences to himself. This is perhaps the reason I enjoyed the book in spite of it's flaws; I was so interested in learning about Kolini that I could overlook the problems.

Why is Kolini so amazing? Here are a few random things I learned from this book. Kolini was the first religious leader to publicly apologize for his church's complicity in the genocide. He inherited a church whose leadership had (for the most part) abandoned the Rwandan people in their time of need by fleeing the country. Some church leaders looked the other way while their people were murdered while others were complicit in the murders. How can a person possibly attempt to restore popular faith in a religion after such horrors? Yet Kolini has done just that. In addition, he encouraged the various Protestant denominations to work together with Catholics and Muslims to bring healing to the country as a whole. In the past the various Christian groups never worked together, let alone worked with non-Christians.

*** My Thoughts - The Not So Good ***

My first minor critique is that I don't feel I'm the intended audience. Both Kolini and the author are Anglican and the book seems to be meant for Anglican readers. I've never been a part of the Anglican/Episcopal Church (though I am a Christian) so I don't know its history. There were times when I felt I was missing some background that was important to the story. However, this wasn't a big deal and it didn't hinder my appreciation of Kolini or his work. Don't let this specific criticism keep you from reading if you are interested.

Another minor critique is that this is a very high-level overview of Rwandan history since the focus of the book is Kolini's life and work. I would have liked a bit more detail in some sections since my knowledge of Rwanda is very sketchy. But again, don't let this stop you from reading this book - there are many other ways to learn about Rwandan history.

My biggest critique is that I don't think the book was particularly well written. It wasn't poorly written, but it wasn't well written either. The first few chapters were a struggle for me to get through; I kept reading only because I was so interested in Kolini's story. If I had to describe the writing, I'd say it was almost like reading a student's report of a famous person - does that give you an idea of what I'm talking about? I can't think of any other way to word it.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Has anyone else read this book? Or maybe you could recommend other books on the Rwandan genocide or the response of the African Christian community?


Alyce said...

"I'd say it was almost like reading a student's report of a famous person - does that give you an idea of what I'm talking about?"

Yes, I know exactly what you mean! I haven't read the book, but I do understand that sometimes it's easier to overlook the writing style when you want to get to the heart of the information that the book contains.

Nice review!

Justin Narin said...

Thanks for the review, Rwandan history is really interesting and sad one would love to know how Emmanuel Kolini managed to bring in peace and harmony and faith.

Freedom Debt

Heather J. said...

Alyce - Glad to know I'm making sense. :)

Justin - He really did some amazing work.

Anonymous said...

"I'd say it was almost like reading a student's report of a famous person - does that give you an idea of what I'm talking about?"

Just as a possible point of information, I've lately taken up penpalling, and I've noticed that my two African penpals both write this way. Even when they get the grammar and vocabulary right, they sound very young, much younger than their actual years. I've wondered about that a lot, and I'll not be so bold to say that I understand why that is, but it is very noticable. And these two have high school educations, can use a computer, and are above average achievers in their local areas. Just thought you might find this interesting.

Very nice review. I've started looking for articles on Rwanda since that's where one of my new friends lives. He wants me to give him some advice on how to better himself, which I'm more than happy to do if I can, but first I need to learn something about Rwanda!

Lovely to find some others interested in Rwanda on the net. Africa has always been a hazy blur to me. I know where the continent is and I know the classic Hollywood fantasies about it, but maybe now I'm going to learn something about what it's really like.

Heather J. said...

Anonymous - Thanks for your comment. I do understand what you are saying, but this book was written by a British (?) woman not someone for whom English is a second language. And it wasn't really the word choice that bothered me, rather the style of writing in general. But as I said, I was still very interested in the subject so I did enjoy the book.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, definitely my bad for assuming it was written by an African. If I can find the book I'll be sure to read it too.

Thanks for reviewing it!

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