Paul Gitwaza in Indianapolis

Paul Gitwaza in Indianapolis June 16, 2015

I had the pleasure of hearing Paul Gitwaza speak on Saturday at the licensing ceremony for Emmanuel Musinga, who pastors a congregation of refugees that meets in the same building as Crooked Creek Baptist Church. He then made an unanticipated visit to Crooked Creek Baptist on Sunday morning and so delivered the morning message. That evening, he spoke at First Baptist Church in Indianapolis about the history behind the Rwandan genocide and his own work towards reconciliation. Then on Monday, I had a chance to show Paul and Emmanuel around the Butler campus and have coffee and talk more.

I was rather disappointed by the low turnout at the Sunday evening talk aimed at the public. I gather that this individual is essentially the Billy Graham of Rwanda, being considered a spiritual adviser to the president. He spoke about how the artificial creation of racial distinctions in Rwanda by the Belgian colonial powers was a major factor in the violence that erupted there in the 1990s. I believe that Americans have something we need to learn from this, living as we do in a country where skin color has been artificially turned from merely yet another feature of human appearance, into a socio-economically defining attribute which creates tensions and violence.

I am interested in learning the language of this community, which is Kinyarwanda. I like learning languages, and often do so just as a hobby, because it might one day be useful. Any recommendations from readers who’ve learned Kinyarwanda? I realize that the odds that someone who has learned the language will read this are slim, but I’ve been surprised time and again by the readership of this blog, and so I thought I would ask!

I have already found or been directed to a number of useful resources online, including a Wikibooks grammarKimenyi’s grammar and other books which can be previewed online, many useful pdfs (including a Peace Corps introduction to the language, the FSI Kirundi course, and a dictionary, the Learning Kinyarwanda blog and other blogs that provide resources, audio Bibles, a cached document on the language’s tonal system, a number of places that collect useful phrases, and a few YouTube videos. But there are bound to be other things I am missing, and I am finding it difficult to tell whether any of the books available for purchase on Amazon.com would be more useful than the resources I have found online.

I am also wondering whether, given the very good resources available for Swahili, I should press ahead with that language first and then move to Kinyarwanda, since both are Bantu languages. I don’t think I could have managed learning Mandaic if I had not learned other dialects of Aramaic first, and so sometimes it makes sense to learn one language or dialect as a stepping stone to learning another related one for which there are fewer resources available to help a student.

At any rate, input is appreciated. Let me conclude with a photo of Paul Gitwaza preaching at my church:

Paul Gitwaza at Crooked Creek


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  • “He spoke about how the artificial creation of racial distinctions in
    Rwanda by the Belgian colonial powers was a major factor in the violence
    that erupted there in the 1990s.”
    -Not so much the “artificial creation” (all creations are artificial) as the formal codification of those racial distinctions and the perpetuation of a racial hierarchy in Rwanda.
    “I believe that Americans have
    something we need to learn from this, living as we do in a country where
    skin color has been artificially turned from merely yet another feature
    of human appearance, into a socio-economically defining attribute which
    creates tensions and violence.”
    -What did I tell ye about South Indians in America? Do they have downward mobility?*

    *Interestingly enough, Caribbean immigrants to Britain and African immigrants to the U.S. don’t have downward mobility either. I wonder what’s up with that. The case isn’t as clear as it is with Vietnamese Americans.