Lessons churches learned from Genocide against the Tutsi

On 13 April 2021 at 07:23

Rwanda is commemorating for the 27th time the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi which took lives of over 1 million victims that were brutally killed. Churches were among sacred places where believers sought god’s protection but the situation seemed different during Genocide against Tutsi. The house of God was turned into killing ground whereby Tutsi that sought refuge inside churches countrywide were heinously killed by fellow believers or preachers.

Until today, church leaders are blamed to have played a role during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi mobilizing followers to kill fellows.

In 2016, the Catholic Church apologized on behalf of its members that participated in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi through the statement signed by nine bishops.

“Even though the church sent no body to do harm, we, the Catholic clerics in particular, apologize, again, for some of the church members, clerics, people who dedicated themselves to serve God and Christians in general who played a role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi,” reads part of the statement.

In April 2016, the Association of Pentecostal Church of Rwanda (ADEPR) also apologized for complicity of its members during Genocide against Tutsi.

IGIHE has talked to church leaders including the Archbishop of Kigali Diocese, Cardinal Antoine Kambanda and the spokesperson of ADEPR, Pastor Ndayizeye Isaie to hear their message to Rwandans and hint on learned lessons and teachings churches should promote.

Cardinal Kambanda said that Genocide against Tutsi is beyond imagination considering the fact that Christians also took part of it.

“Genocide against Tutsi reflected extreme cruelty. The saddest thing is that it was perpetrated by Rwandans including Christians. This hurts us. What happened in Rwanda is beyond imagination had it not been the Mercy of God,” he said.

“That is why we take time, during this period of commemoration, to pray so that God can defeat the evil and hatred to resurrect from death to lead new life. This is what Jesus Christ came to teach us when he was oppressed and accepted to die in solidarity with all oppressed and killed over their innate personality,” added Cardinal Kambanda.

He highlighted that it is saddening for a Christian to take lives of fellows yet they are aware that ‘life’ is the greatest gift God gave people.

“The blood of victims is a tear that reaches God. During this period, we take time to comfort genocide survivors and pray for Genocide victims to continue resting in eternal peace,” said Cardinal Kambanda.

Pastor Ndayizeye Isaie genocide victims suffered a lot without anyone to comfort them.

“Survivors endured extreme sufferings during Genocide when they had no one help or comfort them. We comfort them and remind that Christ is around to comfort and soothe their hearts despite endured difficulties,” he said.

The Bishop of the Anglican Church in Kigali , Rusengo Nathan Amooti has observed that Genocide against Tutsi uncovered the status of Christianity among Rwandans noting that they turned into ‘Judas’ (Iscariot) and perpetrated killings.

“Genocide reflected the extent of Christianity among Rwandans. It weighed us, Rwandans and Christians. Rwandans became Judas, betrayed and killed fellows,” he said.

“We should admit our weakness and committed evils that also led us to killing the son of God. We offended our fellows and God,” added Rusengo.

Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve Apostles. He is notorious for betraying Jesus by disclosing Jesus’ whereabouts for 30 pieces of silver. Judas brought men to arrest Jesus and identified him with a kiss. Jesus was then arrested, tried, and executed.

Promoting constructive preaching

Cardinal Kambanda has said that Christians should be taught to love each other and avoid whatever that could lead divide them.

“Priority teachings should mobilizing people to stand against discrimination. Our bond of unity is much valuable than differences. The difference rests in economic status but we are flowers as Mary of Kibeho told us. The beauty of flowers lies in the mix of varied of colors. This should apply to us to stand united,” he said.

“Our uniqueness is the beauty and our strength. Saint Paul says it well alluding to an example of a body composed of different parts which form its strength,” added Cardinal Kambanda.

Pastor Ndayizeye also highlighted that preachers should strive to instill good values among Christians.

“We should be careful and follow up whether our teachings transform people into Church followers or followers of Christ. This point should be given much relevance to avoid bystanders,” he said.

“It has been observed that such virtue was missing during Genocide against Tutsi. It is important to analyze the transformations brought by messages delivered nowadays bring to lives of Christians and how they can resist the evil regardless of the forces behind,” added Ndayizeye.

Bishop Rusengo also observed that Christians should repent and take on their responsibility as Christians to perceive fellows in the image of God.

In July 2019, President Paul Kagame blamed preachers who played a role to turn churches into killing fields saying that Rwandans are not short of lessons showing them how to do it because there is more strength they should use to build the Rwandan family and make a contribution on the global scale.

He made the observation in his concluding remarks following the training of leadership dubbed ‘Purpose Driven Leadership Gathering’ organized by PEACE Plan Rwanda at Kigali Convention Center (KCC).

The training was attended by close to 2,000 people from the public, private and faith based sectors for the Purpose Driven Leadership Gathering led by Pastor Rick Warren.

At the time, Kagame reflected on the country’s tragic history that led to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi taking lives of over 1 million victims saying it should leave a considerable lesson.

“You cannot call yourself a believer and behave as someone who is not a believer. I have still not understood how churches were turned into killing fields with those who taught the word of God choosing who should be killed,” said Kagame.

“It is a failure that will continue to leave a mark on our history. That is why Rwanda has to make extraordinary choices to heal from the tragedy and failures of our past,” he added.

Ntarama was among churches turned into killing ground during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.