WORLD RELIEF: CHURCH EMPOWERMENT ZONES

The Church established itself in Rwanda over 100 years ago, and today, more than 70% of the population is in
a church building every week. How then, in 1994, did a genocide of such horrific proportions and unprecedented
brutality take place? Volumes have been written on the underlying causes, on the immediate events leading up to the
genocide and of the failure of the world to take heed of the warning signs. Little, however, was said of the failure of
the Church to stand up and protect the vulnerable. Fortunately, that has changed. Today’s Church in Rwanda is quite
different from the institutionalized Church of the past. It is vibrant, diverse, and growing. And step-by-step, it has
begun to walk alongside its people in their journey from darkness and despair, towards hope and renewal.
World Relief first established its presence in Rwanda immediately following the genocide. Watching the international
community respond with one-off emergency interventions, we became increasingly convinced that solutions needed
to center on the resourcefulness and hearts of the local people, and that the Church had a unique role to play. Born
out of that conviction, World Relief first pioneered its Church Empowerment Zone model in 2011. Founded on our
strong belief that transformational change begins with the Church, we began teaching, mobilizing, and empowering
local churches and their networks to serve the most vulnerable in their communities. Through sharing biblical
teaching and building leadership capacity, we brought churches of all denominations together in one network, to unite
under a common curriculum and leadership development program, giving them the opportunity to wrestle with
common problems, share resources, and join together in a common vision for their churches, families, and
communities.

“We do not see one another as enemies anymore. Now we come together as brothers, bringing our strengths
together. We are at peace.” – Pastor Museveni

Today, the Church Empowerment Zone model is unleashing the potential of hundreds of churches and communities
across Rwanda, building a legacy of hope, generosity, and self-reliance that is sustaining progress. Local churches
are no longer simply institutions for Sunday gatherings, but the epicenters of their communities—transforming hearts,
minds, and attitudes. Rwanda is a vivid and timely reminder that there is more to religion than just showing up to
church. It has revealed how essential it is for our faith to be strongly rooted in a holistic and meaningful understanding
of the Gospel.