It would be quite an impossible task to separate Rwanda from the Catholic Church. At one point in time, the Church and the country were inseparable. In fact, at one time the head of the Catholic Church in Rwanda was also a member of the Central Committee of the ruling party until he was forced to resign by Pope John Paul II.
While the Church had a big blot on its record because of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, its reputation was saved by events that took place long before the Genocide.
Throughout the 1980s, it is believed that the Virgin Mary appeared before some young schoolgirls in Kibeho bearing several messages. Soon the phenomenon attracted thousands of faithful. Today, over half a million pilgrims from all over the world visit the shrine every year.
Now Kibeho is in the news again triggering a deluge of heated debate because the Church and its supporters want to build a Basilica, and not just any, but the biggest in the region.
Those against the idea argue that the money estimated to be around $70 million, could be put to better use instead of investing it in stone and mortar. Authorities have always been looking for ways to exploit the pilgrimage and slowly by slowly hospitality amenities are coming up.
Before the apparition, Kibeho was a backwater village with nothing to write home about, today, smart people are exploiting the religious fervour surrounding the Virgin Mary, So, what could be a smarter move than building something that will attract even more tourists?
There is no risk that the Basilica could turn out to be a white elephant because the world has no shortage of religious zealots, if all they need is a sense of spiritual fulfilment, why not give it to them while benefitting the local population at the same time?