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.

The Catholic cathedral of Sainte Famille, an immensity of brick, stands right off one of Kigali’s main arteries, a few hundred yards downhill from the Hotel des Mille Collines. Because of its prominence, and its consequent visibility to the few international observers who were still circulating in Kigali, Sainte Famille was one of half a dozen places in the city—and fewer than a dozen in all of Rwanda—where Tutsis who sought refuge in 1994 were never exterminated en masse. Instead, the killing in such places was incremental, and for those who were spared the terror was constant. Sainte Famile was initially protected by policemen, but, as usual, their resistance to the neighborhood interahamwe and to the soldiers who came hunting for Tutsis quickly collapsed. In the beginning, the killers who staked out the church contented themselves with attacking new refugees as they arrived. The massacre on April 15 was the first massive incursion into Sainte Famille, and it was quite carefully organized by the interahamwe and the Presidential Guard.

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.

Comments

"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."

In exchange for this godly Rwandan's rebuke we could offer him this story: "My First Abortion Party" cited here at:

http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/141140

""What are you going to do?" Unnecessary question, really -- a conversational life vest, used when you’re sputtering for something to say. We knew the answer. Maggie, a 22-year-old college senior with no intention of bringing a child into the world yet, was going to have an abortion. She told us that she had already made up her mind; she had even determined the time, date and location. A better question might have been, "How are you going to pay for it?"

She answered that one before we had a chance to ask. "We’re having a party Friday to raise money," Maggie said. "You guys are obviously invited."

An abortion party. For the price of whatever we were willing to donate, she explained, we could partake of baked goods, beer and dancing. It was going to start at 10 p.m. at Maggie’s.

Ali and I arrived around 11, only half aware of the irony of being "late" to an abortion party. Walking in, we were bludgeoned with a blast of hot air, followed by the tangy stink of dance floor revelry. Someone had taken a red bed sheet and hung it below a light fixture to resemble a giant womb. Every so often, a dancer’s head or arm or dreadlock would brush against one of its smooth folds, creating a rippling effect. "Let’s Go Crazy" by Prince was playing.

As Ali went off to find Maggie, I sat down and struck up a conversation with Eli, the three-year-old son of one of the partygoers. ... Even though I thought the presence of a young child at an abortion party was a little bizarre, nobody else seemed to acknowledge (or care about) this contradiction. Instead, the rest of the guests just took turns fawning over him, exchanging high fives and swooshing him through the air. He, along with everyone else, was having a blast.

I saw Maggie’s boyfriend, sitting near the kitchen, wearing rainbow suspenders and looking uncomfortably alone. As it turns out, he had been the object of a lot of vitriol from Maggie’s friends -- women who thought that he should not have had anything to do with the abortion."

Read the rest of this sad account.

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