Over 160 Genocide perpetrators in Bugesera reconcile with survivors

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Fr Ubald Rugirangoga sprinkles spiritual water on former Genocide perpetrators who sought forgiveness at Nyamata Parish in Bugesera District yesterday. A total of 166 Catholic faithful at the parish regained their right to holy sacraments, including Eucharist, Baptism (for their children) and Marriage (Church sanctioned weddings), after they confessed and asked for forgiveness for their crimes committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. / Timothy Kisambira

A total of 166 Catholic faithful at Nyamata Parish regained their right to holy sacraments, including Eucharist, Baptism (for their children) and Marriage, after they confessed and asked for forgiveness for their crimes committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

This follows a heart healing course for cleansing undertaken by the group from July 1, 2016.

However, speaking during the event on Sunday, Nyamata Parish head priest Emmanuel Nsengiyumva noted that the number of those who expressed remorse and apologised is still low given the magnitude of Genocide in Bugesera District.

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A former Genocide perpetrator holds a card with the image of Jesus that shows a new covenant with God. / Timothy Kisambira
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A Christian follows proceedings during the mass in Nyamata, Bugesera District. / Timothy Kisambira

He said there were 252 Genocide perpetrators who underwent the healing course, but 86 did not fulfill all the requirements to regain the sacraments.

“These courses are very demanding in terms of both spiritual and physical aspects,” he said, adding that the perpetrators had to go and express remorse and ask for forgiveness from living relatives of Genocide victims.

Genocide survivors appreciated the heart healing programme and suggested it is rolled out to other churches.

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Father Ubald Rugirangoga sprinkles spiritual water to former Genocide perpetrators after asking for forgiveness at Nyamata Parish Bugesera District. / Timothy Kisambira
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A congregation follows proceedings during the mass at Nyamata Parish in Bugesera District. / Timothy Kisambira

They said the programme is a true way to achieve true unity and reconciliation.

The Executive Secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), Fidèle Ndayisaba, called on religious organisations to embrace unity and reconciliation through truth so as to contribute to national unity and development.

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Ndayisaba addresses the congregation during the Mass at Nyamata Parish at which 166 former Genocide perpetrators were forgiven by the Church. / Timothy Kisambira

He supported the idea of extending the progamme to other religious organisations in the country.

“This initiative is an effective move towards sustaining the achievements of Gacaca jurisdiction [courts] which sought to achieve justice through truth and eradication of impunity,” he said.

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Bugesera mayor Emmanuel Nsanzumuhire gives his remarks during the mass at Nyamata Parish, Bugesera District. / Timothy Kisambira

Fr Ubald Rugirangoga, who initiated the Heart Healing programme, said in 1994 clerics failed in their role of guiding the flock to prevent them from participating in ethnic killing.

“Some priests fled the country and they are leaving abroad but, they will not be peaceful until they repatriate and do the same we are doing – uniting and reconciling Rwandans after their social fabric was split apart,” he said.

“Kindness should prevail over evil. Love is a prerequisite for the success of this country.”

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Father Ubald Rugirangoga baptizes a child during the mass in Nyamata. / Timothy Kisambira
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Father Ubald Rugirangoga lights a candle of hope with the former Genocide perpetrator who asked for forgiveness at Nyamata Parish Bugesera District. / Timothy Kisambira

Bugesera becomes the third parish in the country to witness the graduation of former Genocide perpetrators who have confessed for their crimes and asked for forgiveness – after Musha Parish and Ntendezi Parish both located in Cyangungu Diocese in Western Province.

The Heart Healing was initiated in 2008 at Mushaka Parish.

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