It is hard to understand why this continent seems to have a disportionate amount of disaster and pain. Perhaps you have been in prayer for the troubled nation of Kenya (if not, why not?)
Sadly, this film (and the review I wrote about it shortly after it came out in 2004) seems to still be relevant:
Throughout the film, “Hotel Rwanda”, the protagonist, Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle) deceives, flatters, lies, and uses the property that belongs to others for bribery. In other words, he behaves in a way that I am sure Jesus would commend. Really.
The film (a true story) opens in April of 1994 in Rwanda as two rival parties, the Hutus and the Tutsis, seem on the verge of peace. But it was not to be. The assassination of the President of Rwanda led to a grave escalation in the civil war.
During the colonization of Rwanda by the Belgians, the occupiers almost arbitrarily divided the Rwandans into two groups. The Tutsi were deemed more European, and were given positions of power and privilege during the colonial period. But when the Belgians left, Hutus took charge, and they harbored a pent up hatred of the Tutsi.
Rusesabagina was the manager of a posh French hotel in Rwanda, catering primarily to Europeans and Americans. He was also a Hutu married to a Tutsi.
As hostility and chaos in the country escalated, the Hutus (soldiers and civilians) began to attack all of the Tutsi people. Rusesabagina was initially reluctant to come to the aid of his Tutsi neighbors in need. But eventually he took in many endangered family members, neighbors and orphans into his hotel.
He hoped the United Nations or other Western powers would intervene when it became obvious that genocide of the Tutsi people was taking place. But the outside world did not intervene in the slaughter of the Tutsi.
So Rusesabagina took it upon himself to save as many lives as he could. He flattered the Hutu leaders and lied to them about sheltering Tutsi and the dangers of attacking them. He used the hotel’s food, drink and finances to bribe Hutu soldiers.
After six months, nearly one million Tutsi were killed. But Rusesabagina had saved approximately 1200 lives.
His story reminded me of Jesus’ parable about another manager. In Luke 16, Jesus told about a manager whose boss discovered he was cheating. The manager was still in charge of his master’s goods, but he knew his time as manager was coming to an end. So he brought in all those who owed money to his master and slashed their debts. This won him the favor of the debtors. The manager knew he could turn to the debtors for help when he was fired.
In this strange parable, Jesus commends the manager for being shrewd, for using the resources of his boss (which he held temporarily) to win himself long-term gain. Rusesabagina used the resources entrusted to him by the hotel company to save lives.
Jesus admired that kind of thinking. To be able to trade beer and cigars to save human lives is quite a shrewd deal. Jesus was not endorsing dishonesty with this parable. But He was teaching us that all our resources are temporary possessions. And if we are wise we will use those resources for eternity.
Just as Rusesabagina used the resources entrusted to him to save lives, we can use our resources to save lives and souls. We can use what we have to feed the hungry and preach the gospel to the poor. Jesus commends this as a shrewd business move.
(The issue of deceiving is a tricky one. In Scripture dishonesty is roundly condemned. But Rahab the prostitute is commended in Scripture for hiding Israelite spies and lying when asked if she knew where they were. Rusesabagina seems to be an honest man, but he did lie in the tradition of Rahab. On the other hand, during the Nazi Holocaust, the Ten Boom family hid Jews during the occupation of Holland. The Ten Boom girls knew it was wrong to lie. When asked whether Jews were in the house, Corrie’s sister said the Jews were under the table. The soldiers assumed she was joking and ignored the hiding place beneath the floor under the table.)
“Hotel Rwanda” will be released on DVD and video April 12th. It is rated PG-13 for violent and graphic images. News reports say it has been screened twice at the White House, and that the real Paul Rusesabagina has met with President Bush about the current situation in the Sudan and the Congo.
Tragedies like the genocide in Rwanda are sadly not unique in history. But when such things happen, (to paraphrase the film’s tag line), Christians must not close our eyes to the oppressed, but rather open our arms.