Men’s Ministry hears refugee’s tale

FITROY HARBOUR – The Men’s Ministry’s monthly meeting was the story of a Rwandan peacekeeper turned Ottawa Valley refugee.

Jean (last name withheld to protect himself and his family) was the March 16 guest speaker at the monthly Bethel St. Andrew’s United Church Men’s Ministry Breakfast and he spoke of his work in Rwanda which directly led to his flight to Arnprior.

Jean fled Rwanda last year after he was targeted for exposing misappropriation of $11 million at his Pentecostal church.

Jean said he had spent his life working for peace in Rwanda until he was forced to flee the country fearing for his life and the safety of his wife and three children. Jean is a published author of the book Anti-corruption Education and Peacebuilding.

“We can’t achieve peace if we don’t deal with corruption,” Jean told the 16 men who attended the meeting following breakfast. “Working against corruption was my passion. Whenever we don’t deal with the wrongs of the past, they remain unresolved.”

Jean said the corruption was so widespread, the government eventually reached the church.

“I was being intimidated by the Rwandan National Police,” he said. “The government was taking over the church. Peacekeeping groups were working with the church leaders and then the government started arresting the leaders. I was in danger. I was winning but I was in danger.”

Jean said he hid for a month. The police started visiting him more often.

“I sent a note to rally all the churches,” Jean said. “I didn’t even mention the police. They invited me to remain quiet.”

Jean was facing 20 years in prison. He had to leave his family and his country.

“I left behind my family,” Jean said. “I wanted to continue my work in Rwanda. I didn’t want to be a refugee.”

His wife Grace and sons Jean, Pierre and Antoine fled to an African country. And that is where Project Arnprior Cares stepped up. The Arnprior Cares Refugee Support Project ( is fundraising to reunite Jean with his family and help him find employment.

“I am so grateful for the support from the churches and the community of Arnprior,” Jean said.