The Catholic Church has apologised for the role played by some of its members in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that claimed over a million lives. This is contained in a joint resolution signed by nine bishops representing all dioceses, which was to be read in all the churches countrywide on Sunday as the end of year message of the jubilee of God’s mercy.
It also cites other sins committed by Christians that have caused harm in the Rwandan society.
The communiqué says that even though the Catholic Church as an institution played no direct role in 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, some members killed innocent people in the tragedy.
“Even though the church sent no body to do harm, we, the Catholic clerics in particular, apologise, again, for some of the church members, clerics, people who dedicated themselves to serve God and Christians in general who played a role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi,” reads the communiqué in part.
It states that Christians committed a great harm to humanity and calls for prayers so that God changes their hearts, help them repent and reconcile with the survivors and open up to tell the truth to be forgiven.
“We (clerics) apologise and apologise for all Christians due to various crimes we committed, we are saddened by the fact that some of our followers ignored the vow with God through baptism and ignored God’s commandments,” it adds.
“We apologise for all hate sins and divisions that were created in our country to the level that we hated our compatriots based on ethnicity. We ask for forgiveness that very often we did not show that we are just one family and people turned to their colleagues to kill, looted their properties and dehumanised them,” it adds.
The clerics also sought forgiveness for all the bad times that characterised the nation and for the sins committed by clerics and other God’s servants.
“We apologise for all shepherds of Christians who caused conflict and sowed seeds of hatred among them and those who mistreated others, abused their rights in their services,” it says.
Just to show church’s position on Genocide
Bishop Philippe Rukamba, the Bishop of Butare Diocese who doubles as the chairperson of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of Rwanda, yesterday, acknowledged that the release was jointly signed to show that the church’s position is that the genocide was planned by the then government not the church and committed by some Rwandans, among them church members.
“We know that there are church members who played a role in the genocide, killed people and looted their properties. What we don’t agree with is that the church itself played a role in the genocide. Our pope has since asked us not to keep silent but show our position, we have done it but this year of mercy coincided with the event,” said Rukamba.
He said that the church is opposed to media that cultivates genocide ideology around the world.
“Our position is clear; we are against any hatred, we are against genocide and the announcement serves to show the public our position on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and its effects. We shall keep our campaigns to ensure that this is understood and the announcement will be translated into French, English and other languages for the entire world to know,” he added.
A positive move
Dr Jean-Damascène Bizimana, the executive secretary for National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), said the church’s apology is a positive move.
“That the whole clergy sat down and apologised together for the role played in the genocide is a positive move; it shows their position and makes it clear for some who questioned the church’s position on genocide,” he said.
“We also ask that all church members who committed genocide come up and apologise, there are priests and nuns who were accused of genocide and we ask that they apologise too,” he added.
Another positive thing, he said is that the church also asks its members to shun genocide ideology, adding that it gives hope that those who are using media and social media will understand and stop it.
IBUKA president Prof Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu welcomed the development, saying the apology was long overdue and will lead to justice, fight genocide ideology, negation and help in nation building.
“Some priests and other church members used to think that they are protected as the church had remained silent but things are going to change as the church now admits that there are people who committed genocide and it is against them,” he told The New Times yesterday.
The church will also come up and help the government deal with the effects of genocide and contribute to nation building, as its role in supporting survivors was not enough, he added.
He said the apology should reach the whole world, and not only the congregation. “The next step for the church is to ensure that what they included in the communiqué are respected and implemented as it can help in fostering justice and unity,” Dusingizemungu said.