At the peak of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, people who sought sanctuary in churches thinking the killers would not defile the sanctity of God’s place of worship were killed by priests who reminded the hapless Tutsi that even God had abandoned them.
Prof. Linda Melvern, a renowned genocide researcher and author, said this on Tuesday at an event to mark the 19th anniversary of the Genocide, at Southwark Cathedral, in London, UK.
A statement from the Rwandan High Commission in London said as she read to the over 300 people, mainly Rwandans, friends, political leaders and diplomats, at the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Southwark, Prof. Melvern spoke at length of how massacres were planned and executed.
The author of two books on the 1994 Genocide said in an effort to destroy evidence, planners of the Genocide burnt the identity cards designated as Tutsi and dead bodies were swept down the streams, out of Rwanda to rivers and lakes of neighbouring countries.
She said, “the architects of the Genocide, some of whom are still roaming the world, still work hard to deny the Genocide. They have been able to find allies who help them to spread harmful rumours, lies and racist propaganda to an unsuspecting Western audience.”
Echoing Prof. Melvern, the new Rwandan High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland, Williams Nkurunziza, faulted the international community for their silence in 1994, saying it watched as the massacre went on “as if shocked into a dispassionate indifference or deliberate inaction.”
Quoting an old saying, Nkurunziza added: “The world does not suffer a lot because of the actions of bad people. It suffers more because of the silence of good people.”
Turn for the better
However, he welcomed the fact that the silence of 1994 has been replaced by global compassion for the victims of the Genocide, and a growing rejection of genocide ideology.
The event, which was graced by the Lord Mayor of Southwark, Althea Smith, heard moving sermons from Rev. Jonathan Ruhumuliza and Rev. Dr Malachie Munyaneza and testimonies from a survivor, and followed performances by Rwandan children portraying their sense of hope and optimism about the country’s future.
In his sermon, Rev. Ruhumuliza said: “Rwanda has moved from death to life, from darkness to light, from despair to hope for a brighter future, with hope moving from surviving with manna, advancing towards self-reliance to fully enjoy the fruits of the land.”
Nkurunziza said remembering honours and dignifies the memory of the innocent lives lost in the pogrom.
“By commemorating, Rwandans also demonstrate their resolve to create a progressive, tolerant and peaceful community in which all children are equal and work together to build shared prosperity,” he said.
In spite of the past tragedy, Nkurunziza said, Rwandans today are more optimistic about the future than ever before. He called on Rwanda’s Diaspora to continue standing in solidarity with fellow Rwandans in rebuilding their country.
“While we welcome the support of our friends, we must break the first sweat in developing our country,” Nkurunziza said.