African Great Lakes 

 Coronavirus and Rwanda’s Children’s Peace Libraries 

by Francine Muhawenimana, Children’s Peace Libraries 

Francine and Pascal with the children at the entrance of the library

The crisis we are facing now is one that affects each of us directly, all around the Earth. Whether we know someone who has fallen ill, are confined at home, or are merely caught up in the stress and anxiety of the situation, each of us has new challenges to face.

The Transformational Leadership Center in Rwanda found itself particularly affected during this time. Due to the confinement and quarantine regulations that have been put in place, many of our activities had to be put on hold. In particular, the Children’s Peace Libraries could not allow children—or any visitors—to come to the libraries during the month-and-a-half-long lockdown period. This would clearly have broken social distancing rules, and it would have involved bringing people out of their homes at a time when it was imperative that we all avoid going out in public.

The Children’s Peace Libraries have been closed for the last few weeks. Not only were children quarantined and unable to come to visit the libraries, library staff was also forced to stay home while they waited for the period of confinement to end.

Events which the Libraries staff had planned had to be canceled. After having received training from members of The Labyrinth Society at the beginning of the year, the Peace Libraries had planned to hold monthly events. These events would be focused around labyrinths: designing, building, and walking through them. The meditative nature of the act of walking through a labyrinth makes a good reflective tool, something that the Peace Libraries could use to emphasize their message of peace and reconciliation.

Walk to Remember labyrinth at the Kigali Children’s Peace Library.

For April, the Transformational Leadership Center had planned to hold a labyrinth event and walk to commemorate the genocide against the Tutsi which occurred twenty-six years ago. However, due to quarantine requirements, most genocide memorials were closed and events canceled this year for people’s safety. The labyrinth events planned by the Peace Libraries could not go on. However, the Libraries staff looks forward to being able to hold these events when the quarantine ends, once the danger of the pandemic has subsided.

Obviously, then, it has not been an easy period for the Transformational Leadership Center, with staff confined at home, libraries closed, and events canceled. But we are excited to continue in our work where possible and are anticipating reopening projects that were closed. Since schools will not be opening until September, we know that it can be difficult for families who are trapped at home. We are reopening our libraries for parents to come borrow books for their children to read while they are still confined. We would like to ask for your prayer and support more than ever during this difficult period. Librarians are in need of masks, hand sanitizer, soap, and other measures to help prevent contamination. These materials are not always easy to procure.

We are proud to be able to continue our work with your support and God’s help. Now more than ever, your support is invaluable to us. Any way that you are able to help us secure personal protection equipment and other safety materials is greatly appreciated. Most importantly, please continue to hold us and our staff in prayer: for our safety, the safety of our communities, and that our efforts will be able to help those around us as we continue our mission.