During the bloodshed, what did Rwanda's pastors do?
(Tim) Below is an excerpt from Philip Gourevitch's history of the Rwandan genocide, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families. This book should be read by every believer committed to opposing the slaughter of the feeble, elderly, newborn, and unborn upon which our civil compact has been built for decades, now.
A few years ago, a godly Rwandan was preaching to us here at Church of the Good Shepherd and he took the occasion to rebuke us, saying we Americans had no authority to condemn Rwanda's genocide when we were slaughtering 1.3 million children in our own nation, year after year, with no sign of the bloodshed ending.
Truth is, many, many denominations, churches, elders, and pastors have endorsed the slaughter of the unborn here in these United States. And even among those pastors who claim to be pro-life, precious few are anti-abortion. Like the Rwandan priests and pastors, many of us...
turn a blind eye to the bloodshed in our own churches and congregations. And almost none of us ever show up at the abortuaries on the days of slaughter to give a cup of cold water in Jesus' Name.
Through silence, our preaching, too, connives at the oppression. Saying anything from the pulpit is too, too off putting for the unconverted--let them discover it for themselves. It's the Holy Spirit's work to convict--not the pastor's.
So what did the pastors do when the blood was flowing in Rwanda?
But first, to bring you up to speed, here's a small excerpt from the "Rwandan Genocide" entry in Wikipedia:
Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda revealed, in his testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal, that the genocide was openly discussed in cabinet meetings and that "one cabinet minister said she was personally in favor of getting rid of all Tutsi; without the Tutsi, she told ministers, all of Rwanda's problems would be over." In addition to Kambanda, the genocide's organizers included Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, a retired army officer, and many top ranking government officials and members of the army, such as General Augustin Bizimungu. On the local level, the Genocide's planners included Burgomasters, or mayors, and members of the police.
Government leaders communicated with figures among the population to form and arm militias called Interahamwe, "those who stand (fight, kill) together", and Impuzamugambi, "those who have the same (or a single) goal". These groups, especially the youth wings, were responsible for most of the violence.
Out of a population of 7.3 million people - 84% of whom where Hutu, 15% Tutsi and 1% Twa - the official figures published by the Rwandan government estimated the number of victims of the genocide to 1,174,000 in 100 days (10,000 murdered every day, 400 every hour, 7 every minute). Other sources put the death toll to 800,000, 20% of whom were Hutus. It is estimated that about 300,000 Tutsis survived the genocide. Thousands of widows, many of whom were submitted to rape, are now HIV-positive. There are about 400,000 orphans and nearly 85,000 of them have become heads of families.
According to recent commentators the news media played a crucial role in the genocide: local print and radio media fueled the killings, while the international media either ignored or seriously misconstrued events on the ground.
But what of the church and her priests and pastors? On to the shepherds of Rwanda.
Only males were killed on that day, picked out individually from the throng of several thousand in the church and its outbuildings. The killers had lists, and many of them were neighbors of the victims and could recognize them on sight. A young man who had worked for Bonaventure as a domestic was killed. “But I was lucky,” Bonaventure said. “I went inside a small room with my family, and just as I went in and closed the door, Sainte Famille filled with military and militia and police. They started asking for me, but fortunately they did not break down the door where I was. I stayed there with the kids and my wife. There were about twenty people altogether in that small, small place.” Bonaventure had a three-month old daughter with him, and he said, “Keeping her quiet was the hardest.”
I asked him what the priests had done when the killing began. “Nothing,” he said. “One of them was good, but he was threatened himself, so he went into hiding on April 13, and the other one in charge was very comfortable with the militia. This is the famous Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka. He was very close to the military and the militia, and he was going around with them. He was not actually denouncing anybody at first, but he would do nothing for the people.”
-Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with our Families: Stories from Rwanda, New York: Picador USA, 1998, 124-125.