The Hundred days massacre that transpired in Rwanda in between April and July 1994 left the world stood by watching. Rwanda genocide was gruesome and is regarded as one of the ill-fatal genocide in the world. During that period, Rwanda was characterized by drought and constant wars. The infamous massacre erupted between the two main country ethnic group, the Hutu, and Tutsi, which led the mass killing of approximately 800,000 Rwandans. The Hutu went for the machetes against his neighbor Tutsi. Apart from the murders; the war involved a several spiteful atrocities like rape, torture, maims of babies, children youths, and adults people too. The killings have prompted researchers to trace back the root course of the genocide. Researchers have documented that the violence erupts because of complex interweaving of both internal and external factors. Was religion the primary cause of these brutal murders of 1994 in Rwanda? Some sources argue that both protestant and catholic churches perpetrated the genocide. The paper will focus on how religion contrubuted to the sanctioning the killings in this innocent people. Additionally the paper will examine the ethnic division and the factors that widen the rift between these two groups that was in harmony with each other before. Finally, under the context of religion, the essay will discuss the actual violence and non-violence terrors that transpired in that dark period.
The churches capitilized on the resurgence of Christianity in Rwanda, which was embraced by the Hutu and Tutsi. The Catholic Church and other Protestant church had their evangelical mission. The primary aim of these churches was to install civilization in Rwanda and Africa at large. Later on, Gregoire Kayabinda who was a journalist and then the President of Rwanda combines the primary church mission of civilization with the initial Catholic responsibility of protecting Rwanda’s Christianity status and its common good at large. In the year 1990, communism and secularism were encroaching and a need to prevent its impacts called for Christian Civilization. The Catholic Church took that responsibility to guide the Rwandan society as the country was planning to progress towards free democracy and ideal political autonomy. Catholics mission was set and seemed effective; however, some Catholics leaders had speculated the threat likely to be posed by secularism and communism. Other churches have a similar mission too. The churches started derailing in the year 1990 where churches like Catholic began to focus on political interest hence forgetting their primary mission.
Churches in Rwanda caught themselves playing ethnic politics by portraying favoritisms to the Tutsi while neglecting the Hutu during the precolonial period. Catholic Church was on record ordaining many priests from the Tutsi community. However, some Protestant churches also appeared to be favoring the Tutsi more than the Hutus. The missionary churches saved many roles for the Tutsi people who many could serve as pastors and clergies. The act sends a message that even the church teachings were perpetrating ethnic discrimination. Additionally, the churches created further alienation between two community when the church leaders tend to support and become close with political leaders from the Tutsi community. The evidence was further confirmed immediately after the genocide began when the church leaders propelled a movement to support the proposed the interim government and the irony twist when the same government appeared to be perpetrating the genocide.
As much as some church seemed to be supporting the genocide, there were few churches, which tried to oppose this hostility. The churches seemed to be a having a rift among themselves due to selfish interest. The mojor rifted occurred when some group of churches like the Catholic was a campaign for democratic changes while some Protestant members championed for conservatives and became close the Habyarimana regime. The ethnic involvement comes in because the majority of the clergy from the Catholic were Tutsi, and they were offering support for the democratic reforms. However, some Hutu embraced change as well within the churches. The decisive roles played by these churches were to their famous campaign for Human-Rights Movement that was started I the 1990s. The few clergies in the churches tried to calm down the genocide when it begun but to no avail.
The church buildings were converted into a battlefield where killings were being carried out. According to Guttenfelder and other eyewitnesses, they admitted with a lot of pain in the fact that the church has usually lost credibility. Narrating on what they saw inside and outside the church, their bodies of babies, children, young boys and girls, women and men laying on top of each other. According to former Human Rights Commissioner Tom Dhahiro, he believed that the church a whole has failed in her mission during the genocide period. As much as the church was also advocating for reforms, they should be the one in front lines calling for a peacefully way of instilling changes.
Another most astonishing gesture from the church section was the statement released by the bishop at the Vatican City in Rome that voicing to support the proposed new government. The gesture was ironic because at that moment the genocide had started. Instead of cursing, dissenting and condemning the killings they sided with the perpetrators of the genocide supporting the new government. An effort of condemnation would have calmed down the tides of the war or rather gentle its intensity a little bit. The calls from the African Bishop in Vatican fueled the massacre because the Hutu and Tutsi were in conflict with the proposed new government. Instead, the two community responded positively to that statement and by fighting each other by machetes. Someone my question what were the roles of the church and political leaders. The leadership was weak, and these allowed the local leaders at the parish level to participate in the genocide planning meetings. The church took advantage of allying with the government to communicate discriminative imperialist statement on radios and prints. Additionally the Bishops took advantage and expressed using pastoral letters. Today, the Catholic leaves with the guilt of the genocide incidence in Rwanda.
The missionary church had the assertion, which classified the Tutsi as more superior than the Hutu but they former failed to challenge this claim. The Tutsi had a thirst for power only, and this is evidenced in the following back in the 1980s where they just wanted to be portrayed as natural rulers. The Tutsi took this advantage to discriminate the Hutu. The support they received from the Catholic reinforced further ethnic division and boosted their dominance in politics. The position never pleased the Hutu because they were being overlooked even in terms of sharing economic resources. The notable point in this situation is how the churches boycotted its mission of Christian Civilization and instead create an atmosphere of war, hatred and vengeance. The Hutu had no support and their leaders resorted to historical scenes of ethnical torture and exploitation to motivates their followers into fighting for their rights.
The church also widened the rift between the two communities by communicating racist ideologue, which managed to convince people that the Tutsi was biologically superior beings that The Hutu. According to Clasee writings, the parish leadership was collaborating with the government with the interest of securing the interest of the Catholic Church. The interest made the church leadership to stay close with the government because the Tutsi was heading it. Before the genocide, the Hutu realized they were being overlooked because many position were being reserved for Tutsi community including employment, especially in secondary schools. Tutsi’s monopolization boosted by the environment created by the Catholic and Anglican Church. Rwanda government and the churches created a racialist stereotype that later came to determine the position of held by the Catholic leader towards the two community.
It then appeared that the Protestant and the Roman Catholic churches had taken an official standpoint by acting as the government’s representative. The position handcuffed the churches, and they were obliged to support the majority of the government’s proposal. The clergies were also driven by their personal interest to supports the government at all cost. When the genocide began, the Hutu overpowered the Tutsi and to a rude shock, Bishop Agustin Misago, who was the member of the committee, refused to provide refuge for Tutsi in a church. Latest reports revealed that Bishop Agustin Misago had a hand in the murder of the Tutsi Children at Gikongoro Diocese an allegation that saw him jailed in 1999. Other reports showed that the government has nineteen priests were sentenced were arrested and two of them were sentenced to death for an alleged killing of Tutsi people who had sought refuge in their churches. Again, instead of condemning this act, the Vatican issued a statement, which appeared to be defending the convicted priest. The statement implies that the Catholic and other churches were being targeted for prosecution. A further latest investigation revealed that nuns, reverends, sisters, and the priest had a hand in the mass killings of 1994. For instance, in 2006, the court found tow nuns guilty of providing fuel, which was used to torch the church that more than 500 Tutsi people had gone to seek refuge.
The 1994 genocide left behind a series of left many interlocking consequences and a scar that has not yet healed. The major injury, which is still palpable today, is the torn social fabric that triggered feeling of anger, vengeance, hatred, and resentment and hatred. After all these experiences, Rwandans developed a sense of mistrust and no longer interract to each other as before.The Tutsis and Hutus ethnic antagonism worsen when their common dielict began to surface. The two community had a common Rwandese language that could be able to communicate with each other. The enmity encroachment consumed the language and each community resort to their ethnic tribe. The divide made because the two group to look at each other with antagonism. There was no need to speak a similar language if the Tutsi perceived themselves as superior and sees the Hutu has inferior. However, the two community failed to stand each other to the extending of segregating their residential places too. Their political ideologies were entirely different, and the church bears responsibility. The Tutsi leader tries a series of reconciliation, but it was instead interpreted as resurgence. Slow by slow hatred and dislikes created a tension that become a timed bombed that is ready to explode. It reached a point where the Tutsi were viewing the Hutu as a threat to the available resources.
History of Rwanda links the antagonism of the Tutsi- Hutu to back then in the years 1902 to 1922. The Tutsi community was still dominated by a strong leadership. They were being headed by a paramount chief was appointed by the Belgium’s. The Tutsi chief had a royal court where he used to govern the northern, southern parts of Rwanda making the Hutu his subjects. The royal court system process achieved to substitute the Hutu local leadership because the Tutsi leadership was receiving support from the Belgium government. The Hutu could hit back because they were weak, and Tutsi regime had stabled. The process of extinguishing the Hutus from leadership created animosity between the two which also contributed to the infamous genocide.
Moreover, the separation between the Hutu and Tutsi emerged inside the church of nights. The division was visible in the church leadership appointments, schools, and other employments opportunity that is within the Catholic Church. In the early years, the Tutsi and the Hutu were educated together in the Catholic mission’s schools things changed later. The pupils were now segregated into two groups to have a school for the Tutsi and another school for Hutu children. The Tutsi children were subjected to a rigorous course than their counterparts the Hutu. The segregation drew a clear picture of discrimination. The segregation was a strategy to win the strategy to make the Hutu community less competitive in the government position. The Hutu children were schedule with mediocre curriculum to destine them into blue-collar jobs likes mines and farming. Furthermore, the Tutsi community in both Josephite priest and Benebikira sisters dominated the church ranking. The Catholic system is to be blamed for the creation of ethnic division between the Tutsi and the Hutu.
The division between the Hutu and Tutsi turned worse when a missile blasted President Habyarimana plane down. The assassination occurred April 6, 1994, but no one claimed responsibility for this for it. Now, the blame game started though many directed their fingers to RPF and the every group that collaborated with the Tutsi community. The Presidential Back Guard leader , Colonel Bogosora, was angered by that movement and ordered the killing of the Tutsi leaders and any sympathizers of the from the Hutu community too. The community turned against each other but they were leaving with peace and harmony initialy. The Hutus youts volunteer to be recruited in militia groups and armed themselves with a machetes and started murdering their neighbors mercilessly. The war had gone violent, and an attempt by the Rwanda peacekeepers to cool the tides of the war was futile. Both the Tutsi leaders and the sympathizers from the Hutu tried to seek some appeals from countries like The US, France, and Belgium, but it went unheeded.
The violence between these two communities lacked explanation when some of the rebelled Hutu police officers shot and kill both Hutu and Tutsi. The militia group was forcing people to join the rebellion and those who declined were killed. The group was comprised of a radicalized Hutu intellectuals who choose to operate and hide in Tanzania. Now the church had nothing to dictate because many people had been killed, and the survivors were either hiding or join the militia group in pursuit of safety. As much as both the Tutsi and Hutu people were seeking refuge, they were trying as much as possible to avoid each other. The antagonism was irreparable between the two groups.
The Hutu carried the pain of discrimination they were receiving from both the government and plot for revenge. For instance, the Parish school was reserved for the Tutsi Children only, and they were they only one who could advance up to technical college level. On the contrary, the Hutu children could only attend low standards schools with unqualified teachers. The Hutu militia was targeting the professional schools, abducting teacher and killing those who tried to resist. The act was a gesture of vengeance claiming that their children were denied an opportunity to attend those fancy schools. On the other hand, the Tutsi fought back by targeting the all the educated Hutus. Targeting the educated Hutu was a strategy of reducing the Hutus’ strength of power so that they can rule the remaining uneducated Hutus with ease.
The Churches leaders and church as a whole contributed both directly and indirectly to the Rwandan Genocide. The Church in Rwanda had occupied a royal position by being closer to the government by supporting the suggested set of reforms. The irony is clear when one learns that it was the churches, which played a significant role in triggering the infamous genocide. Everyone expects the church to be on the frontlines preaching peace and harmony. Many people believe that, if the Vatican City could have released a statement condemning the killings at the early stages, the situation would not have worsened unlike white transpired instead. Indirectly, the church engaged in non-violence terrorism by favoring the Tutsi at the expense of Tutsi. The acts of discriminations, which were segregations of schools and employment favors for Tutsi, created animosity between the two communities. The two community had hatred between them, which developed to a time bomb. When the violence erupted, the aftermath was gruesome people’s bodies ranging from children to adults were lying on top of each other. It is not the role of the churches to define ethnicities. Church should work towards achieving their mission with no any kind of favors or discriminations. The Catholic Church together with other Pentecost church still bears the guilty of Rwanda genocide that cause the death of more than 800, 000 Rwandans.