Every Tuesday at 7 a.m., the phone calls, text messages, and Facebook messages begin pouring in to “Duhumurizanye” in Kigali, Rwanda. By then, the program (translated as “Let’s Comfort Each Other”) has already been on the air for an hour on 106.4 FM – Ijwi ry’Ibyiringiro (The Voice of Hope Radio).
Twenty years after the devastating genocide of 1994, Rwandans are continuing their efforts to heal from the tragedy, and Ijwi ry’Ibyiringiro is making a vital contribution to that process. Through the Tuesday call-in program, listeners share not only their personal testimonies, but also financial support for survivors, orphans, and widows, regardless of their religious affiliation.
“Some listeners are ready to tell horrible stories of what they lived through during the genocide and how God rescued them,” says managing director Prince Bahati. “One lady came to our studio and shared how she was visiting a man who killed her parents and bringing him food in prison. It was so touching that people were not able to hold their emotions. They were crying and could not understand such courage.”
The station also holds annual events designed to unite listeners; the meetings attract government officials, people from varied religious denominations, rich and poor, young and adult. The staff chooses a site of genocide survivors to visit, where words of reconciliation are delivered.
“There are some who thought they could not go back to church because they saw some church leaders killing,” Bahati says. “After listening to our station and participating in these programs, they have found themselves changed and have resumed church prayers without caring about whom they will worship with.”
At these community events, listeners also sponsor projects to aid genocide survivors. In 2011, attendees gathered in one village raised nearly US$6,000. The money was used to fund a pineapple plantation project for 50 young genocide orphans. The following year, after hearing the testimony of a young man who had kidney failure, listeners raised nearly $3,000 to help him continue his treatment.
Ijwi ry’Ibyiringiro has a high profile in Rwanda. Its broadcasts reach an estimated 65 percent of the population, and it has received several government awards for health and the environment, as well as a population media award from the United Nations Population Fund. The station also hosts high-level dignitaries, such as government ministers and directors general from different agencies. Bahati says, “It has been our pleasure to see how they respect our station and how they obey when we tell them that any program starts with a prayer.”
On Friday evenings, a Sabbath school discussion program in the Kinyarwanda language often receives more than 20 calls per hour (as well as Facebook and text messages). The program has become a platform for listeners to ask questions, which are often answered by other listeners. “This participatory approach has attracted even non-Adventists, some of whom order copies of the Sabbath school lesson guides,” Bahati says.
The station only began reporting baptisms in 2012, but in that short period of time, it can already claim nearly 300 baptisms. These results inspire not only the six permanent staff members, but also the more than 40 volunteers who dedicate their vital time and expertise to bringing programs to air.
Hope. Comfort. Reconciliation. Support. Ijwi ry’Ibyiringiro is a model for us all.