President Kagame on Friday night was awarded the International Medal of Peace by Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Presenting the award during the Saddleback Civil Forum on Reconciliation, Pastor Rick Warren commended President Kagame for his dedication, sacrifice and leadership in reconciliation, fight against poverty and disease, and efforts towards economic development of Rwanda.

In his acceptance speech President Kagame expressed appreciation to Pastor Rick and Kay Warren and paid tribute to the members of the Saddleback Church for their friendship and contribution to Rwanda’s development. President Kagame dedicated the award to the people of Rwanda saying “this Medal of Peace belongs to all Rwandans who work hard everyday to make our country what it is”.

Earlier in the evening, in front of an audience of 3000 community members at the worship centre, President Kagame and Pastor Rick Warren engaged in a conversation on the power of reconciliation and how it has reunified Rwandans after the genocide fifteen years on.  President Kagame explained that in leading the struggle for Rwanda’s liberation, he was driven by the desire to restore his rights and the rights of all the people of Rwanda, and underscored the importance of a government that today embraces all its citizens and brings people together.

On the role of the church in reconciliation and rebuilding, President Kagame said “It starts with possibility of being able to tell the difference between the church and the government. In the past, these were almost one and the same, and created a situation where the church could not distance itself from what the government was doing”, referring to the church’s role in the genocide. President Kagame pointed out this has now changed and churches were playing a significant role in healing communities.