Most Rwandan Priests undoubtedly, formed part of those that orchestrated the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The main reason as to why they ‘succeeded’ in preaching the hatred, which culminated into the genocide, can be traced in the African beliefs.
Rwandans like most Africans are traditionally religious. It was easy therefore, to capitalize on their beliefs, to teach hatred in churches. Religion that helped them to live peacefully, turned into an instrument of hatred.
In fact, according to African tradition, Africa was once a continent where the people lived well, initially, a continent that created a tradition of wholeness, where African Traditional Religions (ATRs) embraced all aspects of life, the spiritual, the political and the social- Where music and art communicated with the Sacred.
We had our religions before the invasion of the White man’s religion. They demonized our religion and gave their own as the best. This, as most historians expressed, was only for indoctrination so that they may colonize Africa.
“For centuries, African traditional religions have been subjected to the same misrepresentation, underestimation and basic stigmatization which have been reserved - and continue to be reserved - for the societies, cultures and actors of Sub-Saharan Africa in general,” remarks a socialist Daniele Mezzana .
“There appears to be a very close relationship between the representation of African religion and that of the continent as a whole. This means that a reductive representation of this people’s spirituality always tends to reverberate on the entire history of African peoples and, conversely, that a poor interpretation of Africa and Africans is often strengthened and justified by common stereotypes on African traditional religions,” he adds.
This is how the African tradition Religion died, thus paving way for the new one made in the West. Nevertheless, religion being all about people’s lives and practices, quickly penetrated in the people’s minds, to the extent that what a priest said during the genocide, was taken as a gospel truth. During the genocide, the ‘flocks’ followed the Priests sheepishly to their death camps. It actually explains why many Rwandans were killed in churches.
Churches are places were every Christian goes to several times in a day or a week, to meet the sympathy of the Almighty God, through His Son Jesus Christ. It is so disheartening to find that this very place was used to teach hatred and death, as it was done during the genocide and probably immediately after it. We remember with regret the involvement of Priests in preaching hatred, instead of love.
It is also a big shame to find a number of Rwandan Priests jailed, because they killed the followers of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
After the likes of Bishop Seromba, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda recently sentenced a Catholic priest to 25 years in jail, for his part in the genocide that gripped Rwanda in 1994. 50 years old Emmanuel Rukundo, was charged with crimes against humanity, murder, and genocide.
Today if you went to church, you would be amazed by how the same Rwandans, still throng the way to church every day, despite the yester bad experience in the genocide that associated the same institution.
Inside the church, Christians will seat and convincingly listen, to what Priests teach them. They will stand or seat, sing or clap their hands as the Priest wishes-they have the power bestowed to them by Jesus Christ.
It would be so dangerous, if such ‘Priestly power’ was used to teach ‘venom’. It is however, convincing that today, most Priests indeed preach peace and love for each other.
“If you are to be called a true Christian, then start loving your immediate neighbour, as you love yourself. If you cannot love him or her, then don’t claim to be loving God,” Pastor Samuel George from Tanzania was heard telling Christians.
“God is not the author of confusion and hatred, but peace and love in the world,” Pastor Gasore Constantine of Restoration Church in Rwanda added.
Suppose the words of the two Priests were turned to say that; hate your neighbour for he or she is your enemy-it would be catastrophic reminiscent of the 1994 genocide.
The recent arrest and conviction of Bishop Emmanuel Rukundo, reminds all Priests to teach love and not hatred. And those who are in the right direction should keep the spirit (Galatians 3:28.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus).
Our children and grandchildren’s morality and consequent peace, entirely depends on what our great teachers and preachers (Priests) tell them today-Love or hatred.