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Mushaka parish marks 50 years of evangelisation

Fifty years ago, long distances that catholic followers had to trek to get to the then Mibilizi Mission for Mass celebrations, prompted Monsignor Aloys Bigirumwami to  establish a new parish to serve the areas of former Gishoma and Bugarama communes, in the current Rusizi District.
Ten Genocide convicts (Kneeling) reconciled with relatives (standing) of those they killed after attending a reconciliation programme facilitated by the Mushaka Parish.  The New Times/....
Ten Genocide convicts (Kneeling) reconciled with relatives (standing) of those they killed after attending a reconciliation programme facilitated by the Mushaka Parish. The New Times/....

Fifty years ago, long distances that catholic followers had to trek to get to the then Mibilizi Mission for Mass celebrations, prompted Monsignor Aloys Bigirumwami to  establish a new parish to serve the areas of former Gishoma and Bugarama communes, in the current Rusizi District.

The then Mushaka district became, in March 1963, an independent Parish and was put under the spiritual guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Now thousands of parishioners of Mushaka Holy Spirit Church, yesterday, celebrated the golden jubilee of the founding of the parish with a special service, which saw one of their anointed become a priest.

The First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, graced the event.

Preparations for the celebrations started about three years ago, according to Father Jean Eric Nzamwita, who has been leading the parish since 2011. They were marked with evangelisation campaigns, reconciliation crusades, strengthening developmental projects as well as helping the poor, Father Nzamwita told The New Times.

Spurring reconciliation

Since the new parish was established in 1963, the number of baptised followers kept increasing, according to Nzamwita.

Official figures indicate that the parish baptised over 59,000 people, and boasts 15 priests as well as 11 nuns and brothers.

“We are celebrating the tremendous achievements that we have made over the last 50 years,” Father Nzamwita said.

The creation of the parish paved the way for the spreading of the gospel to areas which were formerly hardly accessible, he recalled.

Mushaka ‘gave birth’ to Mashyuza parish in 2008 with the aim of continuing to spread the Holy teachings, Nzamwita said.

Sacred infrastructure, including the Jesus the Merciful Chapel, were also erected to help followers in their religious activities.

The evangelisation efforts came to climax when the parish initiated what it called Gacaca Nkirisitu or (literary ‘Christian Gacaca’) a ‘by-product’ of the semi-traditional Gacaca courts that were established by the government to help speed up trials of Genocide suspects.

But, contrary to the Gacaca courts, Mushaka’s ‘Christian Gacaca’ did not hear trials against Genocide perpetrators. It instead encouraged its parishioners who had participated in the killings to seek forgiveness from the survivors.

Sessions of evangelisation, which regularly brought together Genocide convicts and survivors, were held at the Church with the aim of encouraging reconciliation between them, restoring their ties to normality and seeking the truth vis-à-vis the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Each group was assisted for six months before a reconciliation ceremony was openly held before the entire local church gathering.

And the efforts paid off.

Since 2009 when the campaign was introduced, about 140 individuals have reconciled after attending the sessions, according to available statistics from the Parish. Another group, which underwent the reconciliation special crusade, publicly made their reconciliation vows yesterday during the Jubilee Mass.

“As a result of the campaign, [Genocide] perpetrators have sought and received forgiveness and reintegrated in society while survivors feel much more at ease and have regained trust of those who killed their relatives,” reads part of an official document on the Parish initiative.

Memories


Sixty-eight-year-old Modeste Kabagema remembers the time the parish was established. The man, who was then a student at the Petit Seminaire Nyundo and later became a school teacher, recalls all the main moments that marked the past 50 years of the Parish.

Kabagema recalls how the first church was too small. Later, the church was moved and mass was celebrated from a bamboo church that was subsequently built to try and respond to the growing number of followers.

“It [the bamboo church] was much bigger,” Kabagema remembers. “No one complained [of the state of the church] because everyone knew that was what we could afford to have.”

In the early 1980s, a new, modern and bigger church was built at the place and it still hosts mass.

“It has been a long journey,” he says.

Apart from the church building, Kabagema mentions affiliate schools and health facilities that he says have benefited the entire local community.

Mushaka Parish has two health centres and eight schools affiliated to the Catholic Church (but managed in partnership with the government).

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