Genocide in Rwanda: Complicity of the Churches?

Genocide in Rwanda: Complicity of the Churches?

Genocide in Rwanda: Complicity of the Churches?

Genocide in Rwanda: Complicity of the Churches?


In 1994, genocide put Rwanda on the map for most of the world. It also exposed one of the most shameful scandals of the Rwandan churches-the complicity of the Christian churches in the genocide. Rwanda is the most Christian country in Africa. More than 90% of its people are baptized Christians, with the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches having the greatest number of adherents. According to Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "The story of Rwanda shows both sides of our humanity. The churches were sometimes quite superb in what they did in the face of intimidation and at great cost to themselves. But there were other times when [they] failed dismally and seemed to be implicated in ways that have left many disillusioned, disgruntled and angry." Genocide In Rwanda provides a variety of perspectives through which to assess the complex questions and issues surrounding the topic, and, even raise some new questions that could provide some new insight into this historical event. They are questions we must ask - otherwise, how can the Church begin to make moral restitution, change structures and behaviors, and once again reveal the human face of God in our fragile world?>


Genocide is extreme. We expect the worst, and invariably we learn something about the darkness of human creativity and behavior. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Armenian genocide introduced us to the possibility of removing whole communities and murdering them en route. Toward the middle of the twentieth century, the Holocaust introduced us to industrialized killing. It was clean, efficient murder, conducted at arm’s length, implicating very few people directly. It was total in its aim. And Rwanda in 1994 introduced us to genocide as a state-controlled popular movement. It was genocide executed in every province, district, sector, cell, street, and home. This time, virtually everyone was implicated.

As a genocide by popular consent, the experience in Rwanda introduced a new and disturbing question about human behavior. How do you persuade neighbors to kill neighbors, friends to kill friends, even family to kill their own family? How do you convince teachers to kill their students, doctors to kill their patients, employers to kill their workers? How do you convince clergy to kill their parishioners?

The question can, of course, be put another way: Why were neighbors, friends, families, teachers, doctors, employers, and clergy convinced that they were doing the right thing when they killed or facilitated the murder of people so close to them? Did they change character, or was the possibility of being perpetrators always latent within them?

Genocide in Rwanda: Complicity of the Churches? brings together essays by scholars, clergy, and practitioners who try to grapple with demanding and uncomfortable questions about the role of the Christian Churches, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the acts of practicing Christian people who were involved in that genocide.

Prior to 1994 and superficially, Rwanda appeared to be a model of national piety, a profoundly Christian country, with high levels of church attendance among both Catholics and Protestants. Yet when the influence of genocidal ideology made itself felt, it overwhelmed the people of Rwanda . . .

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