Researcher warns against ‘theologising Genocide’

There is a form of genocide denial or “grossly trivialising” of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which is less talked about, a genocide scholar has warned.

There is a form of genocide denial or “grossly trivialising” of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which is less talked about, a genocide scholar has warned.

Tom Ndahiro says this is observed in the likening of the killing of the over one million Tutsi 20 years ago, to the death of Jesus Christ.

Ndahiro warns that this theologising of the Genocide is a complicated subject that people need to comprehend.

“Theologising Genocide is one of the most dangerous forms of denial. It is a narrative that has been nurtured mostly by elements within the Catholic and evangelical churches,” Ndahiro said yesterday.

In 1996, according to Ndahiro, a Catholic publication stated that Rwanda was blessed to have  hundreds of thousands of martyrs.

“This is wrong. The Tutsi were hunted and killed because they belonged to a legally protected group and not for rejecting a particular religious belief or cause,” Ndahiro said.

“Two more Catholic publications in 1998 and 1999 echoed the same view, both of them alluding that the Genocide was a form of blessing and that the victims were dining with God in heaven.  A singer close to this trend, Kizito Mihigo, has also had this narrative in some of his songs,” he added.

Holy Scriptures

In the 1998 publication, Ndahiro said, a Catholic nun Sr. Paul Emmanuel Aziya, said Genocide perpetrators should be forgiven because they did not know what they were doing, an allusion to the scripture that says: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:34).”

Ndahiro said this amount to denying perpetrators’ responsibility in a well-planned crime. 

“In testimonies and speeches by survivors, you often hear them comparing the Genocide against the Tutsi to the suffering and death of Jesus,” he says.

Ndahiro says the Genocide cannot be compared to Jesus’ death because “the Hutu Power” extremists had planned the killings against the wish of the victims.

“God was not an accomplice in this crime and none of the Tutsi was happy about being a candidate of extermination,” Ndahiro said, adding: “The killers of Jesus did not persecute or kill any of his parents, relatives, disciples or his friends. And Jesus rose from the dead. The Tutsi did not!”

In 1994, the genocidaires chanted that what they were doing was right because God had forsaken the Tutsi.

“Some survivors are proclaiming  that God wanted his people soonest. Why should God want over a million Tutsi dead in just 100 days? Should we assume the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi militias were God’s agents?” he posed.

Sanitising the crime of genocide is immoral and must be fought for the sake of preserving the truth and enforcing “our determination to Never Again,” he added.

The subject was highlighted on Friday night, as relatives of 20 staffers and 18 clients of the Rwanda Development Bank (BRD) who perished in 1994, commemorated at the bank’s premises.

A survivor who was testifying said her dead parents were now “in a better place, in heaven.” Though the young lady is not a denier, Ndahiro stressed that people must seriously consider the implications of such comments. 

Ibuka commissioner Dativa Mukamusoni, who attended the BRD commemoration event, acknowledges the need to carefully mull over Ndahiro’s remarks.

Mukamusoni agreed with Ndahiro that there is need to profoundly analyse the matter.