Strengthening and empowering – The mission of the Jesuit Urumuri Centre, Kigali

Ernest Ngiyembere, SJ - Rwanda-Burundi Region
[From “Jesuits 2022 - The Society of Jesus in the world”]

Journeying with the youth and marginalized towards a hope-filled future in Rwanda.

The Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus and the theme of the 2021-2022 Ignatian Year are at the core of the mission of the Jesuit Urumuri Centre (JUC). Founded in 1992, JUC is the social apostolate centre of the Society of Jesus in Kigali, Rwanda. In its relatively short history, JUC has undergone transformation and conversion. Thankfully, through the UAPs and the Ignatian Year, it is called, once again, to conversion and “to see all things new in Christ.” JUC journeys with the youth to create a hope-filled future, seeks reconciliation and justice for the poor and the marginalized, and works for the protection of our common home, thus, showing the way to God.

Rwanda is a young country. Recent statistics show that 40% of the Rwandan population are young people, aged between 14 and 35 years old with an average age of 20. The Rwandan youth faces many and intertwined challenges. Adolescents in high schools are confronted with the problem of school dropouts and high rate of teenage pregnancies. Young university graduates face unemployment and underemployment, which expose them to illegal or forced labor, prostitution, and human trafficking.


In collaboration with AJAN (African Jesuits AIDS Network), JUC helps teenagers in high schools to change their bad habits, through programs that focus on good character formation. Forums on issues such as HIV and AIDS, drug abuse, and teenage pregnancy prevention are introduced. Life skills, good and moral decision making, and social-coexistence are also discussed. These are done through a program called AHAPPY Generation. There are many stories about the positive impact of the program.

One school teacher described the program as God-sent. He told about a problematic student whose mother constantly begged the school to discipline him. Steps were taken... However, the needed behavioral change came after the student joined the AHAPPY Generation program. The once problematic boy is now a well-behaved, most animated, and creative student. This is one of the many instances showing JUC journeying with the young to channel their energy towards beneficial activities rather than destructive ones. A female student testified that the program helped her make new good friends. Above all, she learnt how to fight stigma against HIV-positive members of her community and, at the same time, protect herself from being infected with the virus, which, sadly, continues to spread among the youth. Testimonies like these are encouraging and urge us to do more.


JUC also journeys with young unemployed university graduates for the construction of a hope-filled future. These graduates include citizens of Rwanda and Burundian nationals living in Rwanda as refugees. JUC has put up a Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme. Participants gain knowledge and skills that equip them for business, putting God first. In their testimonies they stated that they were pleased to learn that the contribution to the country’s development can be done within the construction of the kingdom of God, and that they cannot reach their business goals without involving God. Learning of the necessity for fraternity and collaboration with others is another important aspect of the programme. Young people need to dream together, in order to build a common and sustainable future without leaving or marginalizing anyone.

In this spirit, JUC supports those left to the margins. The Covid-19 pandemic threw many families into extreme poverty. JUC assisted the most hit families in suburbs of Kigali by providing food packages and funds to pay their rent. Many breadwinners of the families are street vendors, or day-to-day workers who could not do anything due to the total lockdown. These people are now being trained in baking, hairdressing, and tailoring. Among the beneficiaries there is a mother of seven who sold vegetables on the street and whose husband has been suffering from mental illness for a long time. Also a family man who said, “Imagine sitting at home, without a job, with 10 family members depending on you. You can imagine how helpless and hopeless I felt.” These people expressed their gratitude to God and to the Society of Jesus.


Furthermore, JUC is committed to the safeguarding of our common home. For this reason, in October 2020, it held an African Great Lakes Regional Conference to mark the fifth anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’. The goal of the conference was not only to keep the message of the encyclical alive but also to further disseminate its message among the youth, politicians, scholars, and activists who live and work in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

All in all, the JUC’s activities are geared towards strengthening and empowering young people and women. They are the ones who have a crucial role to play in building a society with a future filled with hope, where justice and peace prevail. They are our key partners in responding to the call we received from Christ, to partake in his mission of saving the world.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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