Human Rights Activists Upset After Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church Hosts Rwandan President Paul Kagame to Discuss 1994 Genocide

Rick Warren is pastor at Saddleback Church. (Stan Hope / AFP/Getty Images)

Activists are upset that Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Orange County is hosting Rwandan President Paul Kagame at Sunday’s service in remembrance of the 1994 genocide in the east African country, blaming the country’s leader for brutally suppressing his opponents “to save his dictatorship.”

Warren invited Kagame to speak “as we join our Rwandan brothers and sisters in remembering the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and thank God together for the renewal the country has experienced over the last 25 years,” according to an announcement of the event. The president was scheduled to speak at morning services and then a reception afterward.

Warren, bestselling author of “The Purpose Driven Life” who has hosted presidents at his Christian megachurch in Lake Forest, was scheduled to interview Kagame on stage.

“Why would he give attention to someone who has closed thousands of churches and who has consistently denied human rights to his own people?” questioned Aristide Rwigara, the younger brother of Diane Rwigara, who ran against Kagame for president and whom he imprisoned along with her mother and sister after he came to power, according to her family.

“This cannot go unchallenged. Warren is a global figure, and if you want to wear the mantle of spiritual leadership, why would you do this? I used to think he was the real deal, and then I found out that he backed the government — a government that stifles all manner of opposition, that has no humanity,” said Rwigara, who lives in Los Angeles where he works as a translator.

A spokesperson for the church could not be reached for comment.

Kagame has ruled Rwanda since 2000. He led the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel force that took control of the capital, Kigali, during the 1994 genocide and ended the massacre in which 800,000 people were killed by dominant Hutu forces over a three-month period.

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SOURCE: LA Times, Anh Do