What is religion about? A common factor in religions is the ascription to the God or gods of an interest in the behavior of humans and their judgment of what is right or wrong.
Religion is a unique force in society that promotes both good and evil in society. It has promoted social integration and equal rights for example. Individuals are also motivated to create massive support services for the poor, the sick, the hurting, and the broken.
Compassion International and Caritas are some of the typical examples here in Rwanda. Conversely, it has been used to justify human suffering, oppression, discrimination and genocide.
When is it at its worst? Religion and politics is a heady combination and disastrous. It should be avoided at all costs. It becomes so dangerous when religion is hijacked to further political goals in any given society.
In Rwanda for example, religious tenets were invoked to further secular purposes, such as securing a political powerbase. Tolerance and compassion faded in the face of social and political pressures.
This is when and where things went wrong in Rwanda. The people of Rwanda and Africans generally, cannot be separated from religion. It coordinates the mind and the body and hence becomes part and parcel of them.
Unfortunately, in the extremes, religion has the capacity to brainwash people’s minds, which is why some Rwandans, become blindly committed to it. Even those who survived in churches, still go to pray in the same churches, except some isolated exceptions.
But why would someone choose to be brainwashed? It’s not a question of choice. One is conditioned, a kind of conditioning, only psychologists like Sigmund Fred and Pavlov would explain better.
People, who started religion and religious leaders in general, know how powerful it (religion) is, as far as psychological manipulation is concerned.
Churches maintain their following by putting members through a cycle of ups and downs. There is a psychology behind the tactics religions use to exploit the members and keep them dependent on the church.
Religion has been very instrumental in brainwashing Rwandans and hence managed to instigate hatred and the 1994 Tutsi genocide.
Churches and genocide in Rwanda
The interrelationship between the genocide and religion in Rwanda has been the center of the Rwandan ‘hatred controversy’ up to now. The hatred remains paradoxical as it involved parents and children, brothers and sisters, etc.
Every genocide is unique in its way, but the Rwandan one, is more unique than others in that sense. In other countries, only strangers were involved in killing the targeted groups unlike the situation of Rwanda, where a father could kill his children just because their mother was a Tutsi and vice versa.
This is a belief that was embedded in religion. That is why Leon Mugesera announced an apocalypse. He well knew its religious implications.
Apart from the ground evidence, the background given here washes away any doubt that Rwandan churches were involved in the genocide. The then, Rwandan government could not be separated from the churches.
And ironically the country was recognized as a secular state. Rwanda was not secularized at all! This background therefore, explains why church leaders, especially those from the most powerful one (Catholic Church), cannot escape to answer some questions about the genocide.
Priests were involved either directly or indirectly, in the massacres and the church buildings were used as killing grounds.
Trying church leaders
Trying church leaders has been one of the most challenging issues the Rwandan government and its people have real faced. These (church leaders) are supposed to be the ‘architects’ of morals in society, which is why (may be), their trials have been difficult.
It is deep in our mind that we have to obey religious leaders as representatives of Jesus Christ our Lord and we feel not only offended to have a religious leader tried of genocide, but also feel that we are ‘offending’ our savior in a way.
It is as psychological as that and we need someone to save us from these trying moments. But who can do it? We are still waiting for the day when Jesus will ‘come back’ and probably when the ‘world ends’, and we are all pushed to heaven or hell, to answer accordingly.
How can the church leaders help us?
Any church leader who was involved in the 1994 Tutsi genocide, whether directly or indirectly should be ex-communicated. Ex-communication in the ‘religious world’ can be equated to lifting immunity and much more.
In any case, when one gets involved in crimes against humanity, he or she cannot claim to be representing morality in a society any more. The message from God cannot be delivered by one whose hands are stained with blood of innocent children.
The crime of genocide cannot be compared to other crimes, where one can go in front of a congregation or a Bishop and repent, to be accepted again. Whether a church leader serves his sentence or not, the fact that he or she, was involved in the genocide, disqualifies him/her to represent morality in any society.
We need a ‘new breed’ of church leaders with clean hands, who should be forewarned not to go the ways of their predecessors. et the new church leaders pray for those who were on the front line planning and killing the innocent Rwandans.
We cannot have the reverse, where the yesterday killers pray for themselves, when they were involved in the killings and the rest of the nation. et religion be religion and politics be politics, for it is absolutely wrong to combine the two.