The Rev. Emmanuel Gatera

Traumatic memory and a future of hope

The Rev. Emmanuel Gatera loves his country and wants to see it healed. Emmanuel is from Rwanda.

The Rev. Emmanuel Gatera
The Rev. Emmanuel Gatera

Emmanuel and his family were forced to flee their homeland on Christmas Eve 1963. He was only five years old. They travelled to Burundi, where his father would die in a refugee camp. Emmanuel later made his way to Uganda and trained to become an Anglican minister.

It wasn’t until after the 1994 genocide that he began making return trips to Rwanda, eventually moving his family there in 2006.

Emmanuel was deeply affected by the trauma and despair he saw in Rwanda’s youth-from the genocide and its aftermath, and from the suffering caused by HIV/AIDS and sexual abuse. He felt called to start a ministry for Rwandan youth that could serve these urgent needs, but he knew he needed more education.

After consulting with friends, receiving permission and a recommendation from the Anglican Province of Rwanda, and a scholarship from the Anglican Church of Canada, Emmanuel enrolled at St. Stephen’s College in Edmonton in 2008. Emmanuel now spends three to six months each year studying in Edmonton, and the balance at home in Rwanda. He hopes to complete his doctorate by November 2015.

“My studies affected me positively,” says Emmanuel. “They have enabled me to truly understand what trauma is, the damage it causes to our emotional, social, spiritual and physical lives. Although I was studying and planning to promote healing among my fellow Rwandans, I discovered I was what Henri Nouwen calls ‘a wounded healer.’ My childhood and adulthood were both affected by trauma due to war and other life issues.”

In the meantime, Emmanuel’s dream of a ministry for traumatized Rwandan youth has already taken shape. With the help of his wife, Athanasie, and three friends, Emmanuel founded YEGO-Rwanda in 2010. It was officially recognized by the Rwandan government on Dec. 5, 2011.

“The purpose of YEGO-Rwanda is to promote trauma/PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] healing among youth who are survivors of genocide or HIV/AIDS,” says Emmanuel. “It also provides opportunities for education and skills development to enable youth to earn a living, and empower them for reconciliation.”

YEGO focuses on children and youth ages 10 to 18 who might be classified as “orphans and vulnerable youths”-with no discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, or religion. Along with those dealing with traumatic memories and HIV/AIDS, YEGO works with children who live in child-headed households, foster care, orphanages, or on the street, as well as children living with disabilities, in poverty, in conflict with the law, or in any number of other difficult situations.

“After studying trauma, after understanding its impact on youth and its generational effects, I found it urgent to do something to save the current youth and future generations, who constitute a very strategic part of the population. They are energetic, have more years to live and be active, and are the potential leaders of tomorrow. I made a decision to found YEGO-Rwanda to give the youth special attention and focus in my ministry. No peace, stability and prosperity will be possible in our country when our youth are traumatized and sick.”

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