Early this month, the Catholic Church hierarchy drew the ire of survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi when they called for the early release of the elderly and ill Genocide convicts in a public statement that was read out in all of its parishes across the country on April 7, the start of the genocide commemoration week.
After widespread condemnation especially on social media, the Catholic Church released another statement ‘apologising’ for the timing of their declaration but made it clear that they still stood by it.
The Minister for Justice and Attorney General, representatives of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) and Ibuka, the umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors, criticised both the content and timing of the Catholic communique.
There is ample evidence of the Church’s role in sowing and growing hatred that set the stage for the Genocide and many priests who were serving in senior leadership positions were convicted of genocide crimes.
Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa sought views from a cross section of people on what they make of the Catholic Church declaration?
My take on this is twofold. One, I believe it is the right of the Church to seek apology for anyone in the name of the Church, so that is where I play the devil’s advocate.
My concern, however, is why they would issue the declaration at a time when we were commemorating the Genocide that claimed many lives? The bishops who signed the declaration are Rwandans and I believe they understand the weight of the crime that was committed.
I advise them not to seek forgiveness for the perpetrators because genocide is not an offence, it is a crime that goes beyond humanity. They should seek forgiveness and mercy from God and let justice take its course.
Two, they should also stop this kind of intoxication, taking this to the ordinary citizens yet the decision was taken by courts of law. They should have sought prerogatives of mercy from the leadership of the country because the citizens cannot do anything about it. I find this very disturbing and annoying.
Ladislas Ngendahimana, Secretary General, Rwanda Association of Local Government Authorities
Before they issued their declaration, clemency has always been given to Genocide convicts by the President, especially those who have sought forgiveness, therefore the Church declaration was uncalled for.
The Church made it seem like it was something they were introducing yet it wasn’t.
If the convicts that they claim are sick are not pleading guilty of their crime, why should they request for their release?
I also think that the apology was written before the declaration because they were aware of the backlash that it would cause, so I don’t think it was an apology, it was a strategy.
Edwin Mukiza, Founder Priority Rwanda
I think the Catholic Church picked the wrong time to send that request but also the fact that Rome hasn’t publicly apologised for the Church’s involvement in the Genocide against the Tutsi is very problematic.
The Catholic Church shouldn’t be the one asking for their clemency, perpetrators should do it themselves.
The President has granted pardon to very many people previously for various crimes. Also, if these elderly perpetrators needed decent retirement they wouldn’t have killed innocent people.
Fiona Kamikazi, Communications specialist
What I can say is that it was not the right moment to publish such a declaration, at a time when we were starting the commemoration week. In previous years, the elderly and ill prisoners were released and this was not a problem in that period because the prisons were overloaded.
The problem, for me, was the moment which was not well chosen although the apology was a good idea.
Solange Ayanone, journalist