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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Review: Mirror to the Church: Resurrecting Faith after Genocide in Rwanda

Mirror to the Church: Resurrecting Faith after Genocide in Rwanda Mirror to the Church: Resurrecting Faith after Genocide in Rwanda by Emmanuel M. Katongole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emmanuel M. Katongole opens with a concise background focusing on colonial intervention and oppression in the Great lake District of Africa. He intercalates it with a personal panorama of family history and the personal formation of his identity as an African, European Academic, Catholic, and current professor at a Protestant seminary in the United States. Identity formation is presented as a pillar to this book. Identity and how it is formed and then employed in life and faith is what this book is about; particularly our body and its position in the shadow of our histories and futures (in our present day to day). I note that despite citations and historical references in the book, I do not consider it a history book. However, it does use facts as a second pillar to position itself boldly on historic background and western interpretation of the identity and history of Africa, encouraging the interest of the reader, as it did mine, to gather further reading for historical knowledge.

Katongole unveils to the White Western reader the Christian church's compliance during the Scramble for Africa– specifically in the insalubrious and oppressive stratification of Bantu people in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide, beginning around Easter, is the culmination of this oppression and division, imperialism, and crusadesque intervention of the Church empowered by the Nation of Belgium. The author offers the genocide (culmination) as an opportunity to utilize it as a "mirror" for the Western Church, seeing its identity and posture in today's world. He takes to task different perceptions that distort the Church's posture when interacting with Africa– both in praxis and in thought.

His final conclusion guides the western reader to embrace the mirror in all its rawness and gruesomeness– using all the different body types; the victims, the opposers of the genocide, and those that helmed the country's developmental and philanthropical programs during the genocide (whom fled at first notion of a genocide) to see who we identify with. For instance– What would my body and its posture reflect in a race war in the United States?

The identity described and explained in the book– an identity adhered to the example of Jesus Christ in the Christian Bible, a Christidentity– nullifies any allegiances to institution, history, sex, race, or ethnicity. It subverts all identity. The intentional union between the spirit and the flesh cannot function if separated. If they do, we see distortion and extremism based on self-servitude, i.e. genocides. If the union is recognized, learned, and disciplined in practice, following Christ's Beatitudes for example, the extension of this union will manifest in the present by means of the body's posture; to love, to sacrifice, to revolt, to protest, to love one's enemy, and to struggle for justice– even in the ominous cloud of death and terror.

Emmanuel M. Katongole offers Christianity as a tool. It is a 3rd way in today's world. Utilized meekly and consciously, the human being can subvert societal norms and modes of seeing oneself, others, the purpose of life, and reposition themselves (the body and spirit) using the Rwandan narrative as the mirror. The lesson, like all history, is not to scoff and criticize how not to repeat errors and mistakes, to remember how great our nation is and decide what we need to do to bring its greatness back (or maintain its greatness); rather History is to be utilized to see ourselves and our culture and societies as a pluralistic reflection with a global narrative, recognizing that we are all capable of the greatest good & the greatest evil, even shedding violently the blood of our own kin. If we lose sight of this mirror offered by the author, or refuse to recognize it, or see it then shatter it out of anger, guilt, resentment, denial, fear; we will surely self destruct. Without a subversive imagination, we will create our own westernized, white, and "civilized", genocide.

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Stomach, mind, & headed to the Chino

Lists are made and
the checks go in
the boxes, please.
The comforts of order
are simple reminders,
a string on the finger,
a note on the fridge–
reminders of all the
chaos that swirls in
the sky, in the bowls
of cereal & toilettes,
the winds at the tops
of the trees, and the
flurries of our minds.
Lists of acrylic paint
secrete the fantasies
portrayed as realities,
to build us a quaint,
simple, devout Family.