December 16 was a day of great celebration and sharing for Prison Fellowship Rwanda. All 15 prison chaplains, each dedicated to bringing programs for transformation and growth to prisons within a certain administrative sector in Rwanda, met together at the PFR office. The chaplains celebrated the Christmas season, shared stories, exchanged ideas, reflected on successes, and discussed their respective programs in detail. Each chaplain spoke at length about his or her experiences over the past several months.
The prison chaplains serving with PFR focus on four primary projects throughout the year: (1) Paying regular visits to prison inmates to share the Gospel ; (2) Teaching inmates about Restorative Justice (RJ), a practical gateway to reconciliation; (3) Encouraging confession and repentance among inmates for radical transformation; and (4) leading the ALPHA program, in which the inmates gather in small groups to discuss the meaning and importance of faith.
In the past year alone, PFR chaplains have reached more than 3,000 inmates in prisons throughout Rwanda. 800 have openly repented and have accepted Christ as their savior at gatherings led by PFR chaplains. PFR continues to work to reach the most desolate populations in Rwanda with the good news of Jesus Christ. The chaplains spoke of the tremendous response from the inmates to their words about salvation.
Training sessions in Restorative Justice have also met with great success. These trainings discuss the nature of conflict, causes of crime, the role of sin in crime, and practical ways to prevent and address conflict. The trainings are centered on engaging discussions between genocide perpetrators and victims, guided by a curriculum designed by experts in the field of RJ. 7,000 inmates have attended RJ training this year. More than 400 have confessed their crimes and written letters to their victims, asking for forgiveness and requesting an opportunity to meet with them as the first step in the reconciliation process. Many other inmates who did not write letters also confessed their crimes during RJ trainings.
The ALPHA program in Rwandan prisons is made possible by a recent organizational partnership with PFR. ALPHA seeks to create a safe and open environment for small-group discussion about the meaning of faith. The course is guided by a curriculum, comprised of thought-provoking discussion topics and questions. The purpose of ALPHA is to illuminate the importance and meaning of faith by encouraging people to think about what they believe in and why they believe it.
There are now 116 ALPHA groups, with ALPHA represented in all 14 prisons. 20 inmates participate in each group. This means that over 2,000 prisoners in Rwanda are diving deep into the promises of the Gospel, challenging one another, encouraging one another, and gaining a solid understanding of Christ’s love for His people. This is quite an amazing thought.