Rev. Dr Antoine Rutayisire is a senior pastor at Remera Parish Anglican Church of Rwanda. He was ordained a pastor in 2007. During his 13 years in the pastoral area, he served in Kabuga, Saint Etienne Biryogo, and in 2011 moved to Remera parish. Prior to that, he has served on various government programs such as Unity and Reconciliation, Education, and is a writer.
Rutayisire spoke with The Gospel Time’s Frederic Byumvuhore in an exclusive interview, during this time; he discussed more about pastoral work, divorce and unwanted pregnancies, using contraceptives among believers, and the role of the church in reconciliation journey among other issues.
Tell us briefly about Rev. Antoine Rutayisire.
I was born in 1958 in a village called Ntete currently located in Gatsibo District, Kiramuruzi sector, Nyabisindu cell on the shore of the lake of Muhazi.
Where did the motivation to become a pastor come from?
Aah! It’s a calling. I was an evangelist, but before that I was a born again Christian preaching the Gospel. So, finally the calling to be a pastor came. It was not an ambition. Sometimes people say I had an ambition to do this. I felt the calling and I responded to it. I was born in a Catholic family and my dream was to become a priest.
When I was 8 years old that was the first time I went to church. That was in 1966.Everybody was born with a calling. Actually, the big problem is that many people do not know it and consequently they do not live seeking to fulfill it. Even the Bible says we are all God’s workmanship which means we were created for good works that God planned long ago. Everyone was born with a destiny and the destiny is not ours to define, the destiny was defined before we were born. Our responsibility is to seek it and fulfill it. I am now fulfilling my destiny. This is what I was born for.
People who live without a purpose are not living, they just exist. They are going through life. When you are going through life without a sense of destiny, you lack a purpose, passion; but when you move with a purpose you fell the passion, motivation, excitement and that’s why I would like to encourage everybody to live with a sense of purpose. Everyone should ask themselves why I am here. And the person is not the one to answer the question; you simply ask the one who brought you here. (Why did you put me here?) And from there you develop a sense of destiny.
After 26 years, there is a remarkable progress in Unity and Reconciliation in Rwanda. Where do you see churches in the promotion of Unity and Reconciliation among Rwandans?
Churches have been playing a big role mainly in three areas. Number one is helping Genocide survivors heal and forgiving. If you have found somebody who has forgiven, you always find a faith factor.
The second is that churches played a big role in confession. As a matter of facts, the success of Gacaca was linked to the role that churches played to prepare the people, encouraging them to confess. In Gacaca, you find people who truly repented from the bottom of their hearts. Many of them were touched by the Gospel through preaching at various churches. Referral groups in unity and reconciliation are registered to the groups created by Faith Based Organisations.
The third is helping widows and orphans resettle. This factor may not be valued enough but it is a good step to reconciliation. It is not easy to forgive when you are not going to school. Many NGOs that help orphans are Christian organizations.
What if the government imposes taxes on Churches, would you mind?
They will be disappointed. Actually, I always laugh because I do not know any church that will have a surplus they can use to pay taxes. Taxes are calculated according to expenditures and income. For business, they take income and then minus expenditures. I do not know any church anywhere that has net income. As a matter of fact, churches are always operating in deficit. It is simply that they do not do right accounting. I know sometimes people say…. but pastors take tithes and offerings. In that case they will pay tax on Pay as You Earn but not tax on the income. When it is required for it is fine because when we do a proper accounting every church will be bankrupt. We do not operate in surplus, we operate in deficit.
Government promotes family planning and one of the methods is using contraceptives. However, believers and churches are against this. What can you say about this? Is it a sin to use contraceptives?
That is just ignorance. Pure ignorance. Sometimes people say God is against birth control, so you should use natural methods and I say that’s fine. People do not see the contradiction because the reason they give is that God says go and give birth and fill the earth. Even when I use a natural method I am not giving birth. If controlling birth is a sin, whichever method we use is a sin. If using a natural method is allowed, then it is not a sin. A reason given by those who are against this is that chemical methods may harm health of mothers but there are other medicines that we take that can also affect our health.
The main theological reason why I laugh at that is simple. Giving birth to children is a blessing but it is not a commandment. Children are blessings from God which means if it is a blessing I take as much as I want and I stop when I want. I do not think this will convince people because you sometimes hear prophecies that God told me that children are crying in your womb, the children you did not give birth to and that God is angry but all is said out of ignorance.
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