(c) Rev. Kevin M. Daniels, 2007.
Beginning on April 4, 1994, the nation of Rwanda experienced a horrific genocide. The Hutu majority formed death squads and systematically killed the Tutsi people, along with sympathetic Hutus. By the time it was over on July 4, 1994, 100 days had passed and 1 million people had been slaughtered.
"There are no devils left in hell," the missionary said. "They are all in Rwanda."
(Time Magazine, 5/16/94)
The role of the church during the genocide was ambiguous at best. Some church leaders participated overtly, some participated passively, and some railed against it. My friend from Rwanda told me that many church leaders were being asked if it was permissible to kill on the Sabbath.
Many people went to the churches for refuge, but the church leaders were either unable or unwilling to keep them safe. During the 100 days, more people died in churches than anywhere else. Death squads approached the churches and threw in grenades, and then killed whoever survived.
Now, more than a decade after the end of the Genocide, several church leaders have been accused of participating in the violence.
A Catholic Hutu priest was accused of shooting ten of his Tutsi parishoners who came to the church seeking refuge. (National Catholic Reporter, 8/26/94)
The United Nations war-crimes court for Rwanda sentenced a Catholic Priest, Athanase Seromba, to 15 years in prison for giving orders to bulldoze his church which had over 200 people seeking refuge inside. He also gave orders for militia to kill the Tutsis that tried to flee. Seromba plead not guilty, and claimed that he was only a parish priest and was powerless to stop the killing. (Christian Century, 1/9/07)
Two Benedictine Catholic nuns, Sister Gertrude Mukangango and Sister Maria Kisito, were convicted to fifteen and twelve years in prison, respectively, for their roles in turning over 7,000 Tutsis who were seeking refuge in their monastery. In addition, the two women willingly supplied gasoline that was used to burn down a garage which held 500 men, women, and children. Crucial to their convictions was the testimony of other Benedictine sisters against them. (Commonweal, 7/13/01)
"Daddy, I don't think the God of Rwanda lives."
7 year old Rwandan boy.