Whether the church was involved in Rwanda’s gruesome past or not is not debatable. The facts still stand. The evidence is clear and testimonies of the survivors are real.
That hundreds of thousands of people were killed in churches; specifically the Catholic Church, and sanctions passed by the very same priests who preached God’s word, is one social injustice and reality that Rwandans have to live with.
An estimated 95 percent of Rwandans ascribe to the Christian faith with the remaining five percent professing Islam.
The blame does not lie heavily on the latter since they took little or no part in preaching the genocide ideology in their mosques prior to 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
However, the Church in Rwanda as a whole is heavily weighed with the responsibility of ‘clearing the air.’ The violence and degree of sufferings experienced during and after the genocide, no one can measure.
The results were more orphans, HIV infected women and girls who are still today vulnerable victims of the vicious cycle of violence and specifically sexual and gender based violence (SGBV).
The fact that Catholic priests were at the forefront of the genocide 15 years ago, does not change the fact that Rwandans still flock churches every Sunday and that Christians are still dominant in the country.
It also does not change the fact that violence has persistently shown its face among many Rwandans, Christians inclusive.
In line with this, different methods of approaching and effectively eliminating violence in the Church have been adopted.
According to Andrew Mukinisha, a local pastor at Christian Life Assembly, the need for all Rwandan churches to be at the forefront in peace building and reconciliation is a vital step towards bringing healing to the people.
To this end, a six-month training was conducted for church leaders and workers under the theme; ‘Trauma Counseling and Capacity Building for Churches in the fight against Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and HIV/Aids.’
“For Rwanda to move forward, awareness needs to be created on violence against women, children and even men. In this way, reconciliation, restitution and forgiveness begin to take place.”
As a way of sensitizing the public, a Walk organized from Sonatubes in Kicukiro district to Rwandex industrial area.
Youth and well wishers carried placards that read, ‘No to SGBV and HIV/ Aids!’ while other placards proclaimed a message of ‘Peace, Love and Reconciliation.’
The striking bit about this Walk was not that people walked against SGBV and HIV/Aids but that it was women infected with HIV/Aids that took up the centre stage of the campaign.
One, Erina Mukagasana, who is ‘living positively’, was enthusiastic about taking part in sensitising the public about SGBV and HIV/Aids.
“People should know all the different forms of violence. Many children and young women are abused daily and fear to tell anyone, this is why some end up with Aids and have no one to help them,” she said.
For Mukagasana, though her walk in life has not been a smooth one, she has found assurance and hope at the ‘Mercy Homes’- a place set up by the church to support women and their children living with HIV/Aids.
Through providing various forms of physical, emotional and financial support these women are enabled to overcome trauma and live positively in dignity after a history of violence.
This is just one practical representation that the church is dealing with the social injustices that so often befall vulnerable women and children.
When people choose to make a difference in Rwanda, it needs to be one that initiates and brings healing to the hurting and marginalised people in the society.
This however cannot be done without a heart of compassion, peace and love for the less privileged.
When Martin Luther King said, “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation and the foundation of such a method is love,” he simply sums up the whole point of the argument in this story.
With all said and done, social injustices both committed in Rwanda’s dark past and those that continue to afflict people today can be eradicated as long as the church is willing to let love, forgiveness and restitution take its course to eliminate violence and social injustices.